We showed previously that the increased rate of mRNA turnover associated with premature translational termination in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae requires a functional UPF1 gene product. In this study, we show that the UPF1 gene codes for a 109-kDa primary translation product whose function is not essential for growth. The protein contains a potential zinc-dependent nucleic acid-binding domain and a nucleoside triphosphate-binding domain. A 300-amino-acid segment of the UPF1 protein is 36% identical to a segment of the yeast SEN1 protein, which is required for endonucleolytic processing of intron-containing pre-tRNAs. The same region is 32% identical to a segment of Mov-10, a mouse protein of unknown function. Dominant-negative upf1 mutations were isolated following in vitro mutagenesis of a plasmid containing the UPF1 gene. They mapped exclusively at conserved positions within the sequence element common to all three proteins, whereas the recessive upf1-2 mutation maps outside this region. The clustering of dominant-negative mutations suggests the presence of a functional domain in UPF1 that may be shared by all three proteins. We also identified upf mutations in three other genes designated UPF2, UPF3, and UPF4. When alleles of each gene were screened for effects on mRNA accumulation, we found that the recessive mutation upf3-1 causes increased accumulation of mRNA containing a premature stop codon. When mRNA half-lives were measured, we found that excess mRNA accumulation was due to mRNA stabilization. On the basis of these results, we suggest that the products of at least two genes, UPF1 and UPF3, are responsible for the accelerated rate of mRNA decay associated with premature translational termination.
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