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Translational repression in germline development

January 13, 2003 - In many species, the reproductive cells of the germline can only form properly if certain mRNAs are prevented from translating into proteins until they have been transported to precise target locations in the egg and the appropriate developmental stage has been reached. In a study published in the January issue of Developmental Cell, members of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) Laboratory for Germline Development (Akira Nakamura, Team Leader) report that, in the fruit fly Drosophila, this translational repression is achieved by a newly identified complex formed by three associating proteins.

RNA activity during Drosophila oogenesis involves a number of sequential processes. The Drosophila oocyte share cytoplasm with neighboring nurse cells via an incomplete cell membrane, allowing mRNAs and proteins from the nurse cells to be transported to the oocyte in the form of ribonucleoproteins. Following their export from the nurse cell nuclei, mRNAs are translationally repressed, or masked, and transported to specified regions of the oocyte, where they establish fixed and precise localizations and regain their ability to undergo translation. In one example of this critically important regulation, the translation of the RNA for the maternal gene oskar, which has critical functions in embryonic patterning and the formation of germline cells, is repressed during its transport to the posterior pole of the oocyte. This transcript-specific repression is known to be mediated by the protein Bruno, which binds to the 3' UTR of oskar mRNA, but the underlying mechanisms have remained obscure.

In the Developmental Cell study, the Nakamura lab demonstrated that an ovarian protein, Cup, is another protein required to inhibit the premature translation of oskar mRNA, and that Cup achieves this by binding to a second protein, eIF4E, a 5' cap-binding general translation initiation factor. The binding with Cup prevents eIF4E
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Contact: Doug Sipp
sipp@cdb.riken.jp
81-78-306-3043
RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology
12-Jan-2004


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