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Polyadenylation of messenger RNA is known to be an important mechanism for regulating mRNA stability in a variety of systems, including bacteria, chloroplasts and plant mitochondria. By comparison, little is known about the role played by polyadenylation in animal mitochondrial gene expression. We have used embryos of the brine shrimp Artemia franciscana to test hypotheses regarding message stability and polyadenylation under conditions simulating anoxia-induced quiescence. In response to anoxia, these embryos undergo a profound and acute metabolic downregulation, characterized by a steep drop in intracellular pH (pHi) and ATP levels. Using dot blots of total mitochondrial RNA, we show that during in organello incubations both O 2 deprivation and acidic pH (pH 6.4) elicit increases in half-lives of selected mitochondrial transcripts on the order of five- to tenfold or more, relative to normoxic controls at pH 7.8. Polyadenylation of these transcripts was measured under the same incubation conditions using a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)-based assay. The results demonstrate that low pH and anoxia promote significant deadenylation of the stabilized transcripts in several cases, measured either as change over time in the amount of polyadenylation within a given size class of poly(A)+ tail, or as the total amount of polyadenylation at the endpoint of the incubation. This study is the first direct demonstration that for a metazoan mitochondrion, polyadenylation is associated with destabilized mRNA. This pattern has also been demonstrated in bacteria, chloroplasts and plant mitochondria and may indicate a conserved mechanism for regulating message half-life that differs from the paradigm for eukaryotic cytoplasm, where increased mRNA stability is associated with polyadenylation.

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Journal of Experimental Biology

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