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1.  GTP Hydrolysis by eRF3 Facilitates Stop Codon Decoding during Eukaryotic Translation Termination 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(17):7769-7778.
Translation termination in eukaryotes is mediated by two release factors, eRF1 and eRF3. eRF1 recognizes each of the three stop codons (UAG, UAA, and UGA) and facilitates release of the nascent polypeptide chain. eRF3 is a GTPase that stimulates the translation termination process by a poorly characterized mechanism. In this study, we examined the functional importance of GTP hydrolysis by eRF3 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We found that mutations that reduced the rate of GTP hydrolysis also reduced the efficiency of translation termination at some termination signals but not others. As much as a 17-fold decrease in the termination efficiency was observed at some tetranucleotide termination signals (characterized by the stop codon and the first following nucleotide), while no effect was observed at other termination signals. To determine whether this stop signal-dependent decrease in the efficiency of translation termination was due to a defect in either eRF1 or eRF3 recycling, we reduced the level of eRF1 or eRF3 in cells by expressing them individually from the CUP1 promoter. We found that the limitation of either factor resulted in a general decrease in the efficiency of translation termination rather than a decrease at a subset of termination signals as observed with the eRF3 GTPase mutants. We also found that overproduction of eRF1 was unable to increase the efficiency of translation termination at any termination signals. Together, these results suggest that the GTPase activity of eRF3 is required to couple the recognition of translation termination signals by eRF1 to efficient polypeptide chain release.
PMCID: PMC506980  PMID: 15314182
2.  Eukaryotic release factor 1 (eRF1) abolishes readthrough and competes with suppressor tRNAs at all three termination codons in messenger RNA. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(12):2254-2258.
It is known from experiments with bacteria and eukaryotic viruses that readthrough of termination codons located within the open reading frame (ORF) of mRNAs depends on the availability of suppressor tRNA(s) and the efficiency of termination in cells. Consequently, the yield of readthrough products can be used as a measure of the activity of polypeptide chain release factor(s) (RF), key components of the translation termination machinery. Readthrough of the UAG codon located at the end of the ORF encoding the coat protein of beet necrotic yellow vein furovirus is required for virus replication. Constructs harbouring this suppressible UAG codon and derivatives containing a UGA or UAA codon in place of the UAG codon have been used in translation experiments in vitro in the absence or presence of human suppressor tRNAs. Readthrough can be virtually abolished by addition of bacterially-expressed eukaryotic RF1 (eRF1). Thus, eRF1 is functional towards all three termination codons located in a natural mRNA and efficiently competes in vitro with endogenous and exogenous suppressor tRNA(s) at the ribosomal A site. These results are consistent with a crucial role of eRF1 in translation termination and forms the essence of an in vitro assay for RF activity based on the abolishment of readthrough by eRF1.
PMCID: PMC146740  PMID: 9171074
3.  Viable nonsense mutants for the essential gene SUP45 of Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Termination of protein synthesis in eukaryotes involves at least two polypeptide release factors (eRFs) – eRF1 and eRF3. The highly conserved translation termination factor eRF1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is encoded by the essential gene SUP45.
We have isolated five sup45-n (n from nonsense) mutations that cause nonsense substitutions in the following amino acid positions of eRF1: Y53 → UAA, E266 → UAA, L283 → UAA, L317 → UGA, E385 → UAA. We found that full-length eRF1 protein is present in all mutants, although in decreased amounts. All mutations are situated in a weak termination context. All these sup45-n mutations are viable in different genetic backgrounds, however their viability increases after growth in the absence of wild-type allele. Any of sup45-n mutations result in temperature sensitivity (37°C). Most of the sup45-n mutations lead to decreased spore viability and spores bearing sup45-n mutations are characterized by limited budding after germination leading to formation of microcolonies of 4–20 cells.
Nonsense mutations in the essential gene SUP45 can be isolated in the absence of tRNA nonsense suppressors.
PMCID: PMC150568  PMID: 12589713
4.  The effect of eukaryotic release factor depletion on translation termination in human cell lines 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(15):4491-4502.
Two competing events, termination and readthrough (or nonsense suppression), can occur when a stop codon reaches the A-site of a translating ribosome. Translation termination results in hydrolysis of the final peptidyl-tRNA bond and release of the completed nascent polypeptide. Alternatively, readthrough, in which the stop codon is erroneously decoded by a suppressor or near cognate transfer RNA (tRNA), results in translation past the stop codon and production of a protein with a C-terminal extension. The relative frequency of termination versus readthrough is determined by parameters such as the stop codon nucleotide context, the activities of termination factors and the abundance of suppressor tRNAs. Using a sensitive and versatile readthrough assay in conjunction with RNA interference technology, we assessed the effects of depleting eukaryotic releases factors 1 and 3 (eRF1 and eRF3) on the termination reaction in human cell lines. Consistent with the established role of eRF1 in triggering peptidyl-tRNA hydrolysis, we found that depletion of eRF1 enhances readthrough at all three stop codons in 293 cells and HeLa cells. The role of eRF3 in eukarytotic translation termination is less well understood as its overexpression has been shown to have anti-suppressor effects in yeast but not mammalian systems. We found that depletion of eRF3 has little or no effect on readthrough in 293 cells but does increase readthrough at all three stop codons in HeLa cells. These results support a direct role for eRF3 in translation termination in higher eukaryotes and also highlight the potential for differences in the abundance or activity of termination factors to modulate the balance of termination to readthrough reactions in a cell-type-specific manner.
PMCID: PMC516063  PMID: 15326224
5.  Involvement of Human Release Factors eRF3a and eRF3b in Translation Termination and Regulation of the Termination Complex Formation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(14):5801-5811.
eRF3 is a GTPase associated with eRF1 in a complex that mediates translation termination in eukaryotes. In mammals, two genes encode two distinct forms of eRF3, eRF3a and eRF3b, which differ in their N-terminal domains. Both bind eRF1 and stimulate its release activity in vitro. However, whether both proteins can function as termination factors in vivo has not been determined. In this study, we used short interfering RNAs to examine the effect of eRF3a and eRF3b depletion on translation termination efficiency in human cells. By measuring the readthrough at a premature nonsense codon in a reporter mRNA, we found that eRF3a silencing induced an important increase in readthrough whereas eRF3b silencing had no significant effect. We also found that eRF3a depletion reduced the intracellular level of eRF1 protein by affecting its stability. In addition, we showed that eRF3b overexpression alleviated the effect of eRF3a silencing on readthrough and on eRF1 cellular levels. These results suggest that eRF3a is the major factor acting in translation termination in mammals and clearly demonstrate that eRF3b can substitute for eRF3a in this function. Finally, our data indicate that the expression level of eRF3a controls the formation of the termination complex by modulating eRF1 protein stability.
PMCID: PMC1168810  PMID: 15987998
6.  Elongation factor eEF1B modulates functions of the release factors eRF1 and eRF3 and the efficiency of translation termination in yeast 
BMC Molecular Biology  2009;10:60.
Termination of translation in eukaryotes is controlled by two interacting polypeptide chain release factors, eRF1 and eRF3. While eRF1 recognizes nonsense codons, eRF3 facilitates polypeptide chain release from the ribosome in a GTP-dependent manner. Besides termination, both release factors have essential, but poorly characterized functions outside of translation.
To characterize further the functions of yeast eRF1 and eRF3, a genetic screen for their novel partner proteins was performed. As a result, the genes for γ (TEF4 and TEF3/CAM1) and α (TEF5/EFB1) subunits of the translation elongation factor eEF1B, known to catalyze the exchange of bound GDP for GTP on eEF1A, were revealed. These genes act as dosage suppressors of a synthetic growth defect caused by some mutations in the SUP45 and SUP35 genes encoding eRF1 and eRF3, respectively. Extra copies of TEF5 and TEF3 can also suppress the temperature sensitivity of some sup45 and sup35 mutants and reduce nonsense codon readthrough caused by these omnipotent suppressors. Besides, overproduction of eEF1Bα reduces nonsense codon readthrough in the strain carrying suppressor tRNA. Such effects were not shown for extra copies of TEF2, which encodes eEF1A, thus indicating that they were not due to eEF1A activation.
The data obtained demonstrate involvement of the translation elongation factor eEF1B in modulating the functions of translation termination factors and suggest its possible role in GDP for GTP exchange on eRF3.
PMCID: PMC2705663  PMID: 19545407
7.  Overexpression of human release factor 1 alone has an antisuppressor effect in human cells. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(6):3164-3172.
Two eukaryotic proteins involved in translation termination have recently been characterized in in vitro experiments. Eukaryotic release factor 1 (eRF1) catalyzes the release of the polypeptide chain without any stop codon specificity. The GTP-binding protein eRF3 confers GTP dependence to the termination process and stimulates eRF1 activity. We used tRNA-mediated nonsense suppression at different stop codons in a cat reporter gene to analyze the polypeptide chain release factor activities of the human eRF1 and eRF3 proteins overexpressed in human cells. In a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase assay, we measured the competition between the suppressor tRNA and the human release factors when a stop codon was present in the ribosomal A site. Whatever the stop codon (UAA, UAG, or UGA) present in the cat open reading frame, the overexpression of human eRF1 alone markedly decreased translational readthrough by suppressor tRNA. Thus, like the procaryotic release factors RF1 and RF2 in Escherichia coli, eRF1 seems to have an intrinsic antisuppressor activity in human cells. Levels of antisuppression of overexpression of both eRF3 and eRF1 were almost the same as those of overexpression of eRF1 alone, suggesting that eRF1-eRF3 complex-mediated termination may be controlled by the expression level of eRF1. Surprisingly, when overexpressed alone, eRF3 had an inhibitory effect on cat gene expression. The results of cat mRNA stability studies suggest that eRF3 inhibits gene expression at the transcriptional level. This indicates that in vivo, eRF3 may perform other functions, including the stimulation of eRF1 activity.
PMCID: PMC232169  PMID: 9154815
8.  GTP-dependent structural rearrangement of the eRF1:eRF3 complex and eRF3 sequence motifs essential for PABP binding 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(2):548-558.
Translation termination in eukaryotes is governed by the concerted action of eRF1 and eRF3 factors. eRF1 recognizes the stop codon in the A site of the ribosome and promotes nascent peptide chain release, and the GTPase eRF3 facilitates this peptide release via its interaction with eRF1. In addition to its role in termination, eRF3 is involved in normal and nonsense-mediated mRNA decay through its association with cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding protein (PABP) via PAM2-1 and PAM2-2 motifs in the N-terminal domain of eRF3. We have studied complex formation between full-length eRF3 and its ligands (GDP, GTP, eRF1 and PABP) using isothermal titration calorimetry, demonstrating formation of the eRF1:eRF3:PABP:GTP complex. Analysis of the temperature dependence of eRF3 interactions with G nucleotides reveals major structural rearrangements accompanying formation of the eRF1:eRF3:GTP complex. This is in contrast to eRF1:eRF3:GDP complex formation, where no such rearrangements were detected. Thus, our results agree with the established active role of GTP in promoting translation termination. Through point mutagenesis of PAM2-1 and PAM2-2 motifs in eRF3, we demonstrate that PAM2-2, but not PAM2-1 is indispensible for eRF3:PABP complex formation.
PMCID: PMC2811017  PMID: 19906736
9.  An rRNA Fragment and Its Antisense Can Alter Decoding of Genetic Information 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(10):2744-2748.
rRNA plays a central role in protein synthesis and is intimately involved in the initiation, elongation, and termination stages of translation. However, the mode of its participation in these reactions, particularly as to the decoding of genetic information, remains elusive. In this paper, we describe a new approach that allowed us to identify an rRNA segment whose function is likely to be related to translation termination. By screening an expression library of random rRNA fragments, we identified a fragment of the Escherichia coli 23S rRNA (nucleotides 74 to 136) whose expression caused readthrough of UGA nonsense mutations in certain codon contexts in vivo. The antisense RNA fragment produced a similar effect, but in neither case was readthrough of UAA or UAG observed. Since termination at UGA in E. coli specifically requires release factor 2 (RF2), our data suggest that the fragments interfere with RF2-dependent termination.
PMCID: PMC107229  PMID: 9573162
10.  N-terminal region of Saccharomyces cerevisiae eRF3 is essential for the functioning of the eRF1/eRF3 complex beyond translation termination 
Termination of translation in eukaryotes requires two release factors, eRF1, which recognizes all three nonsense codons and facilitates release of the nascent polypeptide chain, and eRF3 stimulating translation termination in a GTP-depended manner. eRF3 from different organisms possess a highly conservative C region (eRF3C), which is responsible for the function in translation termination, and almost always contain the N-terminal extension, which is inessential and vary both in structure and length. In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae the N-terminal region of eRF3 is responsible for conversion of this protein into the aggregated and functionally inactive prion form.
Here, we examined functional importance of the N-terminal region of a non-prion form of yeast eRF3. The screen for mutations which are lethal in combination with the SUP35-C allele encoding eRF3C revealed the sup45 mutations which alter the N-terminal domain of eRF1 and increase nonsense codon readthrough. However, further analysis showed that synthetic lethality was not caused by the increased levels of nonsense codon readthrough. Dominant mutations in SUP35-C were obtained and characterized, which remove its synthetic lethality with the identified sup45 mutations, thus indicating that synthetic lethality was not due to a disruption of interaction with proteins that bind to this eRF3 region.
These and other data demonstrate that the N-terminal region of eRF3 is involved both in modulation of the efficiency of translation termination and functioning of the eRF1/eRF3 complex outside of translation termination.
PMCID: PMC1617110  PMID: 17034622
11.  A single amino acid change of translation termination factor eRF1 switches between bipotent and omnipotent stop-codon specificity† 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(2):599-608.
In eukaryotes a single class-1 translation termination factor eRF1 decodes the three stop codons: UAA, UAG and UGA. Some ciliates, like Euplotes, have a variant code, and here eRF1s exhibit UAR-only specificity, whereas UGA is reassigned as a sense codon. Since eukaryote eRF1 stop-codon recognition is associated with its N-terminal domain, structural features should exist in the N domain of ciliate eRF1s that restrict their stop-codon specificity. Using an in vitro reconstituted eukaryotic translation system we demonstrate here that a chimeric eRF1 composed of the N domain of Euplotes aediculatus eRF1 fused to the MC domains of human eRF1 exhibits UAR-only specificity. Functional analysis of eRF1 chimeras constructed by swapping Euplotes N domain sequences with the cognate regions from human eRF1 as well as site-directed mutagenesis of human eRF1 highlighted the crucial role of the alanine residue in position 70 of E. aediculatus eRF1 in restricting UGA decoding. Switching the UAR-only specificity of E. aediculatus eRF1 to omnipotent mode is due to a single point mutation. Furthermore, we examined the influence of eRF3 on the ability of chimeric and mutant eRF1s to induce peptide release in response to different stop codons.
PMCID: PMC3025575  PMID: 20860996
12.  Decoding accuracy in eRF1 mutants and its correlation with pleiotropic quantitative traits in yeast 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(16):5479-5492.
Translation termination in eukaryotes typically requires the decoding of one of three stop codons UAA, UAG or UGA by the eukaryotic release factor eRF1. The molecular mechanisms that allow eRF1 to decode either A or G in the second nucleotide, but to exclude UGG as a stop codon, are currently not well understood. Several models of stop codon recognition have been developed on the basis of evidence from mutagenesis studies, as well as studies on the evolutionary sequence conservation of eRF1. We show here that point mutants of Saccharomyces cerevisiae eRF1 display significant variability in their stop codon read-through phenotypes depending on the background genotype of the strain used, and that evolutionary conservation of amino acids in eRF1 is only a poor indicator of the functional importance of individual residues in translation termination. We further show that many phenotypes associated with eRF1 mutants are quantitatively unlinked with translation termination defects, suggesting that the evolutionary history of eRF1 was shaped by a complex set of molecular functions in addition to translation termination. We reassess current models of stop-codon recognition by eRF1 in the light of these new data.
PMCID: PMC2938225  PMID: 20444877
13.  Class I release factors in ciliates with variant genetic codes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(4):921-927.
In eukaryotes with the universal genetic code a single class I release factor (eRF1) most probably recognizes all stop codons (UAA, UAG and UGA) and is essential for termination of nascent peptide synthesis. It is well established that stop codons have been reassigned to amino acid codons at least three times among ciliates. The codon specificities of ciliate eRF1s must have been modified to accommodate the variant codes. In this study we have amplified, cloned and sequenced eRF1 genes of two hypotrichous ciliates, Oxytricha trifallax (UAA and UAG for Gln) and Euplotes aediculatus (UGA for Cys). We also sequenced/identified three protist and two archaeal class I RF genes to enlarge the database of eRF1/aRF1s with the universal code. Extensive comparisons between universal code eRF1s and those of Oxytricha, Euplotes and Tetrahymena, which represent three lineages that acquired variant codes independently, provide important clues to identify stop codon-binding regions in eRF1. Domain 1 in the five ciliate eRF1s, particulary the TASNIKS heptapeptide and its adjacent region, differs significantly from domain 1 in universal code eRF1s. This observation suggests that domain 1 contains the codon recognition site, but that the mechanism of eRF1 codon recognition may be more complex than proposed by Nakamura et al. or Knight and Landweber.
PMCID: PMC29606  PMID: 11160924
14.  Usage of the three termination codons in a single eukaryotic cell, the Xenopus laevis oocyte. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1981;9(15):3835-3850.
Oocytes from Xenopus laevis were injected with purified amber (UAG), ochre (UAA), and opal (UGA) suppressor tRNAs from yeasts. The radioactively labeled proteins translated from the endogenous mRNAs were then separated on two-dimensional gels. All three termination codons are used in a single cell, the Xenopus laevis oocyte. But a surprisingly low number of readthrough polypeptides were observed from the 600 mRNAs studied in comparison to uninjected oocytes. The experimental data are compared with the conclusions obtained from the compilation of all available termination sequences on eukaryotic and prokaryotic mRNAs. This comparison indicates that the apparent resistance of natural termination codons against readthrough, as observed by the microinjection experiments, cannot be explained by tandem or very close second stop codons. Instead it suggests that specific context sequences around the termination codons may play a role in the efficiency of translation termination.
PMCID: PMC327395  PMID: 7024919
15.  Termination of translation in eukaryotes is mediated by the quaternary eRF1•eRF3•GTP•Mg2+ complex. The biological roles of eRF3 and prokaryotic RF3 are profoundly distinct 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(14):3947-3954.
GTP hydrolysis catalyzed in the ribosome by a complex of two polypeptide release factors, eRF1 and eRF3, is required for fast and efficient termination of translation in eukaryotes. Here, isothermal titration calorimetry is used for the quantitative thermodynamic characterization of eRF3 interactions with guanine nucleotides, eRF1 and Mg2+. We show that (i) eRF3 binds GDP (Kd = 1.9 μM) and this interaction depends only minimally on the Mg2+ concentration; (ii) GTP binds to eRF3 (Kd = 0.5 μM) only in the presence of eRF1 and this interaction depends on the Mg2+ concentration; (iii) GTP displaces GDP from the eRF1•eRF3•GDP complex, and vice versa; (iv) eRF3 in the GDP-bound form improves its ability to bind eRF1; (v) the eRF1•eRF3 complex binds GDP as efficiently as free eRF3; (vi) the eRF1•eRF3 complex is efficiently formed in the absence of GDP/GTP but requires the presence of the C-terminus of eRF1 for complex formation. Our results show that eRF1 mediates GDP/GTP displacement on eRF3. We suggest that after formation of eRF1•eRF3•GTP•Mg2+, this quaternary complex binds to the ribosomal pretermination complex containing P-site-bound peptidyl-tRNA and the A-site-bound stop codon. The guanine nucleotide binding properties of eRF3 and of the eRF3•eRF1 complex profoundly differ from those of prokaryotic RF3.
PMCID: PMC1557817  PMID: 16914449
16.  Antizyme frameshifting as a functional probe of eukaryotic translational termination 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(20):5949-5956.
Translation termination in eukaryotes is mediated by the release factors eRF1 and eRF3, but mechanisms of the interplay between these factors are not fully understood, due partly to the difficulty of measuring termination on eukaryotic mRNAs. Here, we describe an in vitro system for the assay of termination using competition with programmed frameshifting at the recoding signal of mammalian antizyme. The efficiency of antizyme frameshifting in rabbit reticulocyte lysates was reduced by addition of recombinant rabbit eRF1 and eRF3 in a synergistic manner. Addition of suppressor tRNA to this assay system revealed competition with a third event, stop codon readthrough. Using these assays, we demonstrated that an eRF3 mutation at the GTPase domain repressed termination in a dominant negative fashion probably by binding to eRF1. The effect of the release factors and the suppressor tRNA showed that the stop codon at the antizyme frameshift site is relatively inefficient compared to either the natural termination signals at the end of protein coding sequences or the readthrough signal from a plant virus. The system affords a convenient assay for release factor activity and has provided some novel views of the mechanism of antizyme frameshifting.
PMCID: PMC219470  PMID: 14530443
17.  Eukaryotic Release Factor 1 Phosphorylation by CK2 Protein Kinase Is Dynamic but Has Little Effect on the Efficiency of Translation Termination in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Eukaryotic Cell  2006;5(8):1378-1387.
Protein synthesis requires a large commitment of cellular resources and is highly regulated. Previous studies have shown that a number of factors that mediate the initiation and elongation steps of translation are regulated by phosphorylation. In this report, we show that a factor involved in the termination step of protein synthesis is also subject to phosphorylation. Our results indicate that eukaryotic release factor 1 (eRF1) is phosphorylated in vivo at serine 421 and serine 432 by the CK2 protein kinase (previously casein kinase II) in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Phosphorylation of eRF1 has little effect on the efficiency of stop codon recognition or nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. Also, phosphorylation is not required for eRF1 binding to the other translation termination factor, eRF3. In addition, we provide evidence that the putative phosphatase Sal6p does not dephosphorylate eRF1 and that the state of eRF1 phosphorylation does not influence the allosuppressor phenotype associated with a sal6Δ mutation. Finally, we show that phosphorylation of eRF1 is a dynamic process that is dependent upon carbon source availability. Since many other proteins involved in protein synthesis have a CK2 protein kinase motif near their extreme C termini, we propose that this represents a common regulatory mechanism that is shared by factors involved in all three stages of protein synthesis.
PMCID: PMC1539132  PMID: 16896221
18.  Distinct Paths To Stop Codon Reassignment by the Variant-Code Organisms Tetrahymena and Euplotes 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(2):438-447.
The reassignment of stop codons is common among many ciliate species. For example, Tetrahymena species recognize only UGA as a stop codon, while Euplotes species recognize only UAA and UAG as stop codons. Recent studies have shown that domain 1 of the translation termination factor eRF1 mediates stop codon recognition. While it is commonly assumed that changes in domain 1 of ciliate eRF1s are responsible for altered stop codon recognition, this has never been demonstrated in vivo. To carry out such an analysis, we made hybrid proteins that contained eRF1 domain 1 from either Tetrahymena thermophila or Euplotes octocarinatus fused to eRF1 domains 2 and 3 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We found that the Tetrahymena hybrid eRF1 efficiently terminated at all three stop codons when expressed in yeast cells, indicating that domain 1 is not the sole determinant of stop codon recognition in Tetrahymena species. In contrast, the Euplotes hybrid facilitated efficient translation termination at UAA and UAG codons but not at the UGA codon. Together, these results indicate that while domain 1 facilitates stop codon recognition, other factors can influence this process. Our findings also indicate that these two ciliate species used distinct approaches to diverge from the universal genetic code.
PMCID: PMC1346903  PMID: 16382136
19.  Molecular dissection of translation termination mechanism identifies two new critical regions in eRF1 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(6):1789-1798.
Translation termination in eukaryotes is completed by two interacting factors eRF1 and eRF3. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, these proteins are encoded by the genes SUP45 and SUP35, respectively. The eRF1 protein interacts directly with the stop codon at the ribosomal A-site, whereas eRF3—a GTPase protein—probably acts as a proofreading factor, coupling stop codon recognition to polypeptide chain release. We performed random PCR mutagenesis of SUP45 and screened the library for mutations resulting in increased eRF1 activity. These mutations led to the identification of two new pockets in domain 1 (P1 and P2) involved in the regulation of eRF1 activity. Furthermore, we identified novel mutations located in domains 2 and 3, which confer stop codon specificity to eRF1. Our findings are consistent with the model of a closed-active conformation of eRF1 and shed light on two new functional regions of the protein.
PMCID: PMC2665212  PMID: 19174561
20.  A Competition between Stimulators and Antagonists of Upf Complex Recruitment Governs Human Nonsense-Mediated mRNA Decay 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(4):e111.
The nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) pathway subjects mRNAs with premature termination codons (PTCs) to rapid decay. The conserved Upf1–3 complex interacts with the eukaryotic translation release factors, eRF3 and eRF1, and triggers NMD when translation termination takes place at a PTC. Contrasting models postulate central roles in PTC-recognition for the exon junction complex in mammals versus the cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding protein (PABP) in other eukaryotes. Here we present evidence for a unified model for NMD, in which PTC recognition in human cells is mediated by a competition between 3′ UTR–associated factors that stimulate or antagonize recruitment of the Upf complex to the terminating ribosome. We identify cytoplasmic PABP as a human NMD antagonizing factor, which inhibits the interaction between eRF3 and Upf1 in vitro and prevents NMD in cells when positioned in proximity to the termination codon. Surprisingly, only when an extended 3′ UTR places cytoplasmic PABP distally to the termination codon does a downstream exon junction complex enhance NMD, likely through increasing the affinity of Upf proteins for the 3′ UTR. Interestingly, while an artificial 3′ UTR of >420 nucleotides triggers NMD, a large subset of human mRNAs contain longer 3′ UTRs but evade NMD. We speculate that these have evolved to concentrate NMD-inhibiting factors, such as PABP, in spatial proximity of the termination codon.
Author Summary
The nonsense-mediated mRNA decay pathway is responsible for rapidly degrading mRNAs with premature termination codons. This is important because it prevents the production of potentially deleterious truncated proteins from aberrant mRNAs, such as those that have undergone erroneous processing. How does the cell discriminate aberrant mRNAs from those that are normal? Here we present evidence that in human cells, the targeting of an mRNA to nonsense-mediated mRNA decay depends on a competition between proteins associated with the mRNA 3′ UTR that stimulate or antagonize mRNA decay. We show that cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding protein, a protein associated with the mRNA 3′ end poly(A) tail, antagonizes mRNA decay. By contrast, a protein complex deposited onto mRNAs upon pre-mRNA splicing, called the exon junction complex, stimulates mRNA decay. Our observations suggest that the competition between these proteins, and probably other unknown proteins with similar activities, determines whether a key protein complex in the pathway, the Upf complex, is recruited to the mRNA upon translation termination, which leads to mRNA decay.
Human mRNAs with premature termination codons are detected and degraded by nonsense-mediated decay when 3' untranslated region-associated proteins, such as poly(A)-binding protein, are absent from the proximity of the terminating ribosome.
PMCID: PMC2689706  PMID: 18447585
21.  Suppression of UAA and UGA termination codons in mutant murine leukemia viruses. 
Journal of Virology  1989;63(6):2870-2873.
Genomes of mammalian type C retroviruses contain a UAG termination codon between the gag and pol coding regions. The pol region is expressed in the form of a gag-pol fusion protein following readthrough suppression of the UAG codon. We have used oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis to change the UAG in Moloney murine leukemia virus to UAA or UGA. These alternate termination codons were also suppressed, both in infected cells and in reticulocyte lysates. Thus, the signal or context inducing suppression of UAG in wild-type Moloney murine leukemia virus is also effective with UAA and UGA. Further, mammalian cells and cell extracts contain tRNAs capable of translating UAA and UGA as amino acids. To our knowledge, this is the first example of natural suppression of UAA in higher eucaryotes.
PMCID: PMC250804  PMID: 2542597
22.  UAG readthrough in mammalian cells: Effect of upstream and downstream stop codon contexts reveal different signals 
Translation termination is mediated through an interaction between the release factors eRF1 and eRF3 and the stop codon within its nucleotide context. Although it is well known that the nucleotide contexts both upstream and downstream of the stop codon, can modulate readthrough, little is known about the mechanisms involved.
We have performed an in vivo analysis of translational readthrough in mouse cells in culture using a reporter system that allows the measurement of readthrough levels as low as 10-4. We first quantified readthrough frequencies obtained with constructs carrying different codons (two Gln, two His and four Gly) immediately upstream of the stop codon. There was no effect of amino acid identity or codon frequency. However, an adenine in the -1 position was always associated with the highest readthrough levels while an uracil was always associated with the lowest readthrough levels. This could be due to an effect mediated either by the nucleotide itself or by the P-site tRNA. We then examined the importance of the downstream context using eight other constructs. No direct correlation between the +6 nucleotide and readthrough efficiency was observed.
We conclude that, in mouse cells, the upstream and downstream stop codon contexts affect readthrough via different mechanisms, suggesting that complex interactions take place between the mRNA and the various components of the translation termination machinery. Comparison of our results with those previously obtained in plant cells and in yeast, strongly suggests that the mechanisms involved in stop codon recognition are conserved among eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC29092  PMID: 11242562
23.  Lack of peptide-release activity responding to codon UGA in Mycoplasma capricolum. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1993;21(6):1335-1338.
In Mycoplasma capricolum, a relative of Gram-positive eubacteria with a high genomic AT-content (75%), codon UGA is assigned to tryptophan instead of termination signal. Thus, in this bacterium the release factor 2 (RF-2), that recognizes UAA and UGA termination codons in eubacteria such as Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis, would be either specific to UAA or deleted. To test this, we have constructed a cell-free translation system using synthetic mRNA including codon UAA [mRNA(UAA)], UAG [mRNA(UAG)] and UGA [mRNA(UGA)] in-frame. In the absence of tryptophan, the translation of mRNA(UGA) ceased at UGA sites without appreciable release of the synthesized peptides from the ribosomes, whereas with mRNA(UAA) or mRNA(UAG) the bulk of the peptides was released. Upon addition of the E.coli S-100 fraction or B.subtilis S-100 fraction to the translation system, the synthesized peptides with mRNA(UGA) were almost completely released from the ribosomes, presumably because of the presence of RF-2 active to UGA in the added S-100 fraction. These data suggest that RF-2 is deleted or its activity to UGA is strongly weakened in M.capricolum.
PMCID: PMC309316  PMID: 8464722
24.  Ribosomes containing the C1054-deletion mutation in E. coli 16S rRNA act as suppressors at all three nonsense codons. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1991;19(19):5281-5283.
It was established some time ago that the deletion of base C1054 in E. coli 16S rRNA specifically affects UGA-dependent termination of translation. Based on this observation, a model for the termination event was proposed in which the UGA nonsense codon on the mRNA base-pairs with a complementary motif in 'helix 34' of the 16S rRNA, thus potentially providing a recognition signal for the binding of the release factor. This model has been re-examined here and evidence is presented which demonstrates that ribosomes containing the C1054 delta mutation enhance the activity of suppressors of both UAG and UAA termination codons introduced into the host. The results do not support the nonsense codon-16S rRNA base pairing model, and rather imply a more general involvement of 'helix 34' in the translation termination reactions.
PMCID: PMC328888  PMID: 1923812
25.  Mutations in the peptidyl transferase region of E. coli 23S rRNA affecting translational accuracy. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1994;22(3):279-284.
We have produced mutations in a cloned Escherichia coli 23S rRNA gene at positions G2252 and G2253. These sites are protected in chemical footprinting studies by the 3' terminal CCA of P site-bound tRNA. Three possible base changes were introduced at each position and the mutations produced a range of effects on growth rate and translational accuracy. Growth of cells bearing mutations at 2252 was severely compromised while the only mutation at 2253 causing a marked reduction in growth rate was a G to C transversion. Most of the mutations affected translational accuracy, causing increased readthrough of UGA, UAG and UAA nonsense mutations as well as +1 and -1 frameshifting in a lacZ reporter gene in vivo. C2253 was shown to act as a suppressor of a UGA nonsense mutation at codon 243 of the trpA gene. The C2253 mutation was also found not to interact with alleles of rpsL coding for restrictive forms of ribosomal protein S12. These results provide further evidence that nucleotides localized to the P site in the 50S ribosomal subunit influence the accuracy of decoding in the ribosomal A site.
PMCID: PMC523577  PMID: 8127663

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