Research ArticleBIOCHEMISTRY

Relaxed initiation pausing of ribosomes drives oncogenic translation

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Science Advances  17 Feb 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 8, eabd6927
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd6927

Abstract

Translation is a crucial process in cancer development and progression. Many oncogenic signaling pathways target the translation initiation stage to satisfy the increased anabolic demands of cancer cells. Using quantitative profiling of initiating ribosomes, we found that ribosomal pausing at the start codon serves as a “brake” to restrain the translational output. In response to oncogenic RAS signaling, the initiation pausing relaxes and contributes to the increased translational flux. Intriguingly, messenger RNA (mRNA) m6A modification in the vicinity of start codons influences the behavior of initiating ribosomes. Under oncogenic RAS signaling, the reduced mRNA methylation leads to relaxed initiation pausing, thereby promoting malignant transformation and tumor growth. Restored initiation pausing by inhibiting m6A demethylases suppresses RAS-mediated oncogenic translation and subsequent tumorigenesis. Our findings unveil a paradigm of translational control that is co-opted by RAS mutant cancer cells to drive malignant phenotypes.

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