Differentiation programs such as meiosis depend on extensive gene regulation to mediate cellular morphogenesis. Meiosis requires transient removal of the outer kinetochore, the complex that connects microtubules to chromosomes. How the meiotic gene expression program temporally restricts kinetochore function is unknown. We discovered that in budding yeast, kinetochore inactivation occurs by reducing the abundance of a limiting subunit, Ndc80. Furthermore, we uncovered an integrated mechanism that acts at the transcriptional and translational level to repress NDC80 expression. Central to this mechanism is the developmentally controlled transcription of an alternate NDC80 mRNA isoform, which itself cannot produce protein due to regulatory upstream ORFs in its extended 5' leader. Instead, transcription of this isoform represses the canonical NDC80 mRNA expression in cis, thereby inhibiting Ndc80 protein synthesis. This model of gene regulation raises the intriguing notion that transcription of an mRNA, despite carrying a canonical coding sequence, can directly cause gene repression.
Translational repression and mRNA degradation are critical mechanisms of posttranscriptional gene regulation that help cells respond to internal and external cues. In response to certain stress conditions, many mRNA decay factors are enriched in processing bodies (PBs), cellular structures involved in degradation and/or storage of mRNAs. Yet, how cells regulate assembly and disassembly of PBs remains poorly understood. Here, we show that in budding yeast, mutations in the DEAD-box ATPase Dhh1 that prevent ATP hydrolysis, or that affect the interaction between Dhh1 and Not1, the central scaffold of the CCR4-NOT complex and an activator of the Dhh1 ATPase, prevent PB disassembly in vivo. Intriguingly, this process can be recapitulated in vitro, since recombinant Dhh1 and RNA, in the presence of ATP, phase-separate into liquid droplets that rapidly dissolve upon addition of Not1. Our results identify the ATPase activity of Dhh1 as a critical regulator of PB formation.