Human let-7a miRNA blocks protein production on actively translating polyribosomes
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate gene expression at a post-transcriptional level through base-pairing to 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) of messenger RNAs. The mechanism by which human let-7a miRNA regulates mRNA translation was examined in HeLa cells expressing reporter mRNAs containing the Caenorhabditis elegans lin-41 3' UTR. let-7a miRNA strongly repressed translation, yet the majority of control and lin-41–bearing RNAs sedimented with polyribosomes in sucrose gradients; these polyribosomes, together with let-7a miRNA and the miRISC protein AGO, were released from those structures by puromycin. RNA containing the lin-41 3' UTR and an iron response element in the 5' UTR sedimented with polysomes when cells were incubated with iron, but showed ribosome run-off when the iron was chelated. These data indicate that let-7a miRNA inhibits actively translating polyribosomes. Nascent polypeptide coimmunoprecipitation experiments further suggest that let-7a miRNA interferes with the accumulation of growing polypeptides.