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Cells may shoot messenger to halt protein production

e encoded genetic message as they go. That message describes the chain of amino acids needed to make that particular protein.

As each ribosome travels along the mRNA, it builds the protein by joining the next amino acid in the sequence. When it reaches the end, it releases the raw protein into the cytoplasm.

After making a protein, the mRNA is either reused to make more of its encoded protein, or it is destroyed. Scientists generally believe the mRNA destruction is carried out in multiple steps, beginning when one end of the mRNA is lopped off. The doomed molecule is then transported to nearby recycling complexes.

The current study, carried out by Feng Yang, a graduate student in the Ohio State Biochemistry Program, shows that some mRNAs are degraded through a quicker means: they are hit much earlier in the process.

The findings show that an enzyme Schoenberg previously discovered, known as PMR1 (polysomal ribonuclease 1), attaches to the mRNA of some proteins and chops the mRNA into pieces while ribosomes are reading it.

"The enzyme is sitting right there waiting to nail it, poised for someone to pull the pin on the hand grenade," Schoenberg says. "That gives the cell tremendous flexibility when an mRNA needs to be degraded."

This pathway works only on certain classes of mRNA, and Schoenberg now wants to learn how the enzyme identifies which mRNA molecules to join to, and to identify the signals that trigger PMR1 to destroy an mRNA.


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Contact: Darrell E. Ward
Ward-15@medctr.osu.edu
614-293-3737
Ohio State University
20-May-2004


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