Pno1 is a protein that plays a role in proteasome and ribosome neogenesis in yeast. So far, its functions in mammalian cells have not been investigated. To understand its function in mammals, we performed in situ hybridization analysis of Pno1 expression in different development stages and generated Pno1 gene knockout (KO) and transgenic (Tg) mice lineages. The results showed early lethality of homozygous Pno1 KO lineage caused, as demonstrated in parallel by ex vivo experiments, by arrest of embryo development before compaction stage. Though, heterozygous (HET) mice with 50% of normal Pno1 mRNA concentration were fertile and showed no obvious anomalies. The lymphoid organs of HET mice were normal in size, weight and cellularity, with normal T and B cell subpopulations. TCR-triggered activation and proliferation of HET T cells were normal. Proteasome activities in HET organs were uncompromised. Tg mice with actin promoter-driven Pno1 expression were also fertile, with no apparent anomalies, although they expressed 2-5-fold higher Pno1 mRNA levels. The lymphoid organs of Tg mice were of normal size, weight and cellularity with normal T and B cell sub-populations. TCR-triggered activation and proliferation of Tg T cells were normal. Tg organs and tissues presented normal proteasome activity as did their wild type counterparts. Tagged Pno1 over-expression in L cells and density gradient fractionation established that Pno1 existed in large complexes with sedimentation rates between 20S and 26S, bigger than mature 26S proteasomes. Pno1 in fractions did not coincide with 40S or 60S ribosome subunits. Our study indicates that Pno1 is essential for cellular functions, but only a small percentage of its normal level is sufficient, and excessive amounts are neither harmful nor useful. The nature of the large complexes it associates with remains to be identified, but it is certain that they are not mature proteasomes or ribosomes.
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