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mRNA localization is linked to translation regulation in the Caenorhabditis elegans germ lineage

By Dylan M. Parker, Lindsay P. Winkenbach, Samuel P. Boyson, Matthew N. Saxton, Camryn Daidone, Zainab A. Al-Mazaydeh, Marc T. Nishimura, Florian Mueller, Erin Osborne Nishimura

Posted 09 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.09.900498 (published DOI: 10.1242/dev.186817)

Caenorhabditis elegans early embryos generate cell-specific transcriptomes despite lacking active transcription. This presents an opportunity to study mechanisms of post-transcriptional regulatory control. In seeking the mechanisms behind this patterning, we discovered that some cell-specific mRNAs accumulate non-homogenously within cells, localizing to membranes, P granules (associated with progenitor germ cells in the P lineage), and P-bodies (associated with RNA processing). Transcripts differed in their dependence on 3'UTRs and RNA Binding Proteins, suggesting diverse regulatory mechanisms. Notably, we found strong but imperfect correlations between low translational status and P granule localization within the progenitor germ lineage. By uncoupling these, we untangled a long-standing question: Are mRNAs directed to P granules for translational repression or do they accumulate there as a downstream step? We found translational repression preceded P granule localization and could occur independent of it. Further, disruption of translation was sufficient to send homogenously distributed mRNAs to P granules. Overall, we show transcripts important for germline development are directed to P granules by translational repression, and this, in turn, directs their accumulation in the progenitor germ lineage where repression can ultimately be relieved.

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