• activating transcription factor 5;
  • eIF2α;
  • nonsense-mediated mRNA decay;
  • stress response;
  • transcription factor;
  • translation

We previously reported that activating transcription factor 5 (ATF5) mRNA increases in response to amino acid limitation, and that this increase is dependent on mRNA stabilization. The ATF5 gene allows transcription of mRNAs with two alternative 5′-UTRs, 5′-UTRα and 5′-UTRβ, derived from exon 1α and exon 1β. 5′-UTRα contains the upstream open reading frames uORF1 and uORF2. Phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α during the integrated stress response had been previously shown to lead to bypassing of uORF2 translation and production of ATF5 protein. Translation of uORF2 is expected to result in translational termination at a position 125 nucleotides upstream of the exon junction, and this fits the criterion of a nonsense-mediated decay target mRNA. We investigated the potential role of 5′-UTRα in the control of mRNA stabilization, and found that 5′-UTRα reduced the stability of ATF5 mRNA. 5′-UTRα-regulated destabilization of mRNA was suppressed by knockdown of the nonsense-mediated decay factors Upf1 and Upf2. Mutation of the downstream AUG (uAUG2) rendered mRNA refractory to Upf1 and Upf2 knockdown. Moreover, 5′-UTRα-regulated down-regulation was hindered by amino acid limitation and tunicamycin treatment, and stress-induced phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α was involved in stabilization of ATF5 mRNA. These studies show that ATF5 mRNA is a naturally occurring normal mRNA target of nonsense-mediated decay, and provide evidence for linkage between stress-regulated translational regulation and the mRNA decay pathway. This linkage constitutes a mechanism that regulates expression of stress response genes.