Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) performs two functions in eukaryotes, one in controlling the expression level of a substantial subset of genes and the other in RNA surveillance. In the vast majority of genes, nonsense mutations render the corresponding transcripts prone to surveillance and subject to rapid degradation by NMD. To examine whether some classes of nonsense transcripts escape surveillance, we asked whether NMD acts on mRNAs that undergo subcellular localization prior to translation. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, wild-type ASH1 mRNA is one of several dozen transcripts that are exported from the mother-cell nucleus during mitotic anaphase, transported to the bud tip on actin cables, anchored at the bud tip, and translated. Although repressed during transport, translation is a prerequisite for NMD. We found that ash1 nonsense mutations affect transport and/or anchoring independently of NMD. The nonsense transcripts respond to NMD in a manner dependent on the position of the mutation. Maximal sensitivity to NMD occurs when transport and translational repression are simultaneously impaired. Overall, our results suggest a model in which ash1 mRNAs are insensitive to NMD while translation is repressed during transport but become sensitive once repression is relieved.
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