Transient CPEB dimerization and translational control.
During oocyte development, the cytoplasmic polyadenylation element-binding protein (CPEB) nucleates a set of factors on mRNA that controls cytoplasmic polyadenylation and translation. The regulation of polyadenylation is mediated in part through serial phosphorylations of CPEB, which control both the dynamic integrity of the cytoplasmic polyadenylation apparatus and CPEB stability, events necessary for meiotic progression. Because the precise stoichiometry between CPEB and CPE-containing RNA is responsible for the temporal order of mRNA polyadenylation during meiosis, we hypothesized that, if CPEB production exceeded the amount required to bind mRNA, the excess would be sequestered in an inactive form. One attractive possibility for the sequestration is protein dimerization. We demonstrate that not only does CPEB form a dimer, but dimerization requires its RNA-binding domains. Dimer formation prevents CPEB from being UV cross-linked to RNA, which establishes a second pool of CPEB that is inert for polyadenylation and translational control. During oocyte maturation, the dimers are degraded much more rapidly than the CPEB monomers, due to their greater affinity for polo-like kinase 1 (plx1) and the ubiquitin E3 ligase β-TrCP. Because dimeric CPEB also binds cytoplasmic polyadenylation factors with greater affinity than monomeric CPEB, it may act as a hub or reservoir for the polyadenylation machinery. We propose that the balance between CPEB and its target mRNAs is maintained by CPEB dimerization, which inactivates spare proteins and prevents them from inducing polyadenylation of RNAs with low affinity binding sites. In addition, the dimers might serve as molecular hubs that release polyadenylation factors for translational activation upon CPEB dimer destruction.