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In order to maintain cellular protein homeostasis, ribosomes are safeguarded against dysregulation by myriad processes. Many cell types can nonetheless withstand genetic lesions of certain ribosomal protein genes, some of which are linked to diverse cellular phenotypes and human disease. However, the direct and indirect consequences from sustained alterations in ribosomal protein levels are poorly understood. To address this knowledge gap, we studied in vitro and cellular consequences that follow genetic knockout of the ribosomal proteins RPS25 or RACK1 in a human cell line, as both proteins are implicated in direct translational control. Prompted by the unexpected detection of an off-target ribosome alteration in the RPS25 knockout, we closely interrogated cellular phenotypes. We found that multiple RPS25 knockout clones display viral- and toxin-resistance phenotypes that cannot be rescued by functional cDNA expression, suggesting that RPS25 loss elicits a cell state transition. We characterized this state and found that it underlies pleiotropic phenotypes and has a common rewiring of gene expression. Rescuing RPS25 expression by genomic locus repair failed to correct for the phenotypic and expression hysteresis. Our findings illustrate how the elasticity of cells to a ribosome perturbation can drive specific phenotypic outcomes that are indirectly linked to translation.

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