A mutated human homologue to yeast Upf1 protein has a dominant-negative effect on the decay of nonsense-containing mRNAs in mammalian cells

Xiaolei Sun, Haley A. Perlick, Harry C Dietz, Lynne E. Maquat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


All eukaryotic cells analyzed have developed mechanisms to eliminate the production of mRNAs that prematurely terminate translation. The mechanisms are thought to exist to protect cells from the deleterious effects of in- frame nonsense codons that are generated by routine inefficiencies and inaccuracies in RNA metabolism such as pre-mRNA splicing. Depending on the particular mRNA and how it is produced, nonsense codons can mediate a reduction in mRNA abundance either (i) before its release from an association with nuclei into the cytoplasm, presumably but not certainly while the mRNA is being exported to the cytoplasm and translated by cytoplasmic ribosomes, or (ii) in the cytoplasm. Here, we provide evidence for a factor that functions to eliminate the production of nonsense-containing RNAs in mammalian cells. The factor, variously referred to as Rent1 (regulator of nonsense transcripts) or HUPF1 (human Upf1 protein), was identified by isolating cDNA for a human homologue to Saccharomyces cerevisiae Upf1p, which is a group I RNA helicase that functions in the nonsenser mediated decay of mRNA in yeast. Using monkey COS cells and human HeLa cells, we demonstrate that expression of human Upf1 protein harboring an arginine-to-cysteine mutation at residue 844 within the RNA helicase domain acts in a dominant- negative fashion to abrogate the decay of nonsense-containing mRNA that takes place (i) in association with nuclei or (ii) in the cytoplasm. These findings provide evidence that nonsense-mediated mRNA decay is related mechanistically in yeast and in mammalian cells, regardless of the cellular site of decay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10009-10014
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Aug 18 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General

Cite this