Messenger RNA regulation: to translate or to degrade
Quality control of gene expression operates post-transcriptionally at various levels in eukaryotes. Once transcribed, mRNAs associate with a host of proteins throughout their lifetime. These mRNA–protein complexes (mRNPs) undergo a series of remodeling events that are influenced by and/or influence the translation and mRNA decay machinery. In this review we discuss how a decision to translate or to degrade a cytoplasmic mRNA is reached. Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) and microRNA (miRNA)-mediated mRNA silencing are provided as examples. NMD is a surveillance mechanism that detects and eliminates aberrant mRNAs whose expression would result in truncated proteins that are often deleterious to the organism. miRNA-mediated mRNA silencing is a mechanism that ensures a given protein is expressed at a proper level to permit normal cellular function. While NMD and miRNA-mediated mRNA silencing use different decision-making processes to determine the fate of their targets, both are greatly influenced by mRNP dynamics. In addition, both are linked to RNA processing bodies. Possible modes involving 3' untranslated region and its associated factors, which appear to play key roles in both processes, are discussed.