Sequence-specific adenylations and deadenylations accompany changes in the translation of maternal messenger RNA after fertilization of Spisula oocytes

Eric T. Rosenthal, Terese R. Tansey, Joan V. Ruderman, M. Gottesman

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A dramatic change in the pattern of protein synthesis occurs within ten minutes after fertilization of Spisula oocytes. This change is regulated entirely at the translational level. We have used DNA clones complementary to five translationally regulated messenger RNAs to follow shifts in mRNA utilization at fertilization and to characterize alterations in mRNA structure that accompany switches in translational activity in vivo. Four of the mRNAs studied are translationally inactive in the oocyte. After fertilization two of these mRNAs are completely recruited onto polysomes, and two are partially recruited. All four of these mRNAs have very short poly(A) tracts in the oocyte; after fertilization the poly(A) tails lengthen considerably. In contrast, a fifth mRNA, that encoding α-tubulin mRNA, is translated very efficiently in the oocyte and is rapidly lost from polysomes after fertilization. Essentially all α-tubulin mRNA in the oocyte is poly(A)+ and a large portion of this mRNA undergoes complete deadenylation after fertilization. These results reveal a striking relationship between changes in adenylation and translational activity in vivo. This correlation is not perfect. however. Evidence for and against a direct role for polyadenylation in regulating these translational changes is discussed. Changes in poly(A) tails are the only alterations in mRNA sizes that we have been able to detect. This indicates that, at least for the mRNAs studied here, translational activation is not due to extensive processing of larger translationally incompetent precursors. We have also isolated several complementary DNA clones to RNAs encoded by the mitochondrial genome. Surprisingly, the poly(A) tracts of at least two of the mitochondrial RNAs also lengthen in response to fertilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-327
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 25 1983
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology


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