Nat Commun.: co-auth.: R.Dreos (group Gatfield)


Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a translation-dependent RNA degradation pathway that is important for the elimination of faulty, and the regulation of normal, mRNAs. The molecular details of the early steps in NMD are not fully understood but previous work suggests that NMD activation occurs as a consequence of ribosome stalling at the termination codon (TC). To test this hypothesis, we established an in vitro translation-coupled toeprinting assay based on lysates from human cells that allows monitoring of ribosome occupancy at the TC of reporter mRNAs. In contrast to the prevailing NMD model, our in vitro system reveals similar ribosomal occupancy at the stop codons of NMD-sensitive and NMD-insensitive reporter mRNAs. Moreover, ribosome profiling reveals a similar density of ribosomes at the TC of endogenous NMD-sensitive and NMD-insensitive mRNAs in vivo. Together, these data show that NMD activation is not accompanied by stable stalling of ribosomes at TCs.