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Title: Metabolic stress promotes stop-codon readthrough and phenotypic heterogeneity
Accurate protein synthesis is a tightly controlled biological process with multiple quality control steps safeguarded by aminoacyl-transfer RNA (tRNA) synthetases and the ribosome. Reduced translational accuracy leads to various physiological changes in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Termination of translation is signaled by stop codons and catalyzed by release factors. Occasionally, stop codons can be suppressed by near-cognate aminoacyl-tRNAs, resulting in protein variants with extended C termini. We have recently shown that stop-codon readthrough is heterogeneous among single bacterial cells. However, little is known about how environmental factors affect the level and heterogeneity of stop-codon readthrough. In this study, we have combined dual-fluorescence reporters, mass spectrometry, mathematical modeling, and single-cell approaches to demonstrate that a metabolic stress caused by excess carbon substantially increases both the level and heterogeneity of stop-codon readthrough. Excess carbon leads to accumulation of acid metabolites, which lower the pH and the activity of release factors to promote readthrough. Furthermore, our time-lapse microscopy experiments show that single cells with high readthrough levels are more adapted to severe acid stress conditions and are more sensitive to an aminoglycoside antibiotic. Our work thus reveals a metabolic stress that promotes translational heterogeneity and phenotypic diversity.  more » « less
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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
22167 to 22172
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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