The Enrichment of miRNA-Targeted mRNAs in Translationally Less Active over More Active Polysomes


miRNAs moderately inhibit the translation and enhance the degradation of their target mRNAs via cognate binding sites located predominantly in the 3′-untranslated regions (UTR). Paradoxically, miRNA targets are also polysome-associated. We studied the polysome association by the comparative translationally less-active light- and more-active heavy-polysome profiling of a wild type (WT) human cell line and its isogenic mutant (MT) with a disrupted DICER1 gene and, thus, mature miRNA production. As expected, the open reading frame (ORF) length is a major determinant of light- to heavy-polysome mRNA abundance ratios, but is rendered less powerful in WT than in MT cells by miRNA-regulatory activities. We also observed that miRNAs tend to target mRNAs with longer ORFs, and that adjusting the mRNA abundance ratio with the ORF length improves its correlation with the 3′-UTR miRNA-binding-site count. In WT cells, miRNA-targeted mRNAs exhibit higher abundance in light relative to heavy polysomes, i.e., light-polysome enrichment. In MT cells, the DICER1 disruption not only significantly abrogated the light-polysome enrichment, but also narrowed the mRNA abundance ratio value range. Additionally, the abrogation of the enrichment due to the DICER1 gene disruption, i.e., the decreases of the ORF-length-adjusted mRNA abundance ratio from WT to MT cells, exhibits a nearly perfect linear correlation with the 3′-UTR binding-site count. Transcription factors and protein kinases are the top two most enriched mRNA groups. Taken together, the results provide evidence for the light-polysome enrichment of miRNA-targeted mRNAs to reconcile polysome association and moderate translation inhibition, and that ORF length is an important, though currently under-appreciated, transcriptome regulation parameter.


© 2023 by the authors. cc-by


3′-untranslated regions (UTR), DICER1, microRNA (miRNA), more-active heavy polysome, polysome, polysome profiling, translationally less-active light polysome


Wang, T., Tian, S., Tikhonova, E.B., Karamyshev, A.L., Wang, J.J., Zhang, F., & Wang, D.. 2023. The Enrichment of miRNA-Targeted mRNAs in Translationally Less Active over More Active Polysomes. Biology, 12(12).