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Cold stress-induced protein Rbm3 binds 60S ribosomal subunits, alters microRNA levels, and enhances global protein synthesis

National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biology


The expression of Rbm3, a glycine-rich RNA-binding protein, is enhanced under conditions of mild hypothermia, and Rbm3 has been postulated to facilitate protein synthesis at colder temperatures. To investigate this possibility, Rbm3 was overexpressed as a c-Myc fusion protein in mouse neuroblastoma N2a cells. Cells expressing this fusion protein showed a 3-fold increase in protein synthesis at both 37°C and 32°C compared with control cells. Although polysome profiles of cells expressing the fusion protein and control cells were similar, several differences were noted, suggesting that Rbm3 might enhance the association of 40S and 60S ribosomal subunits at 32°C. Studies to assess a direct interaction of Rbm3 with ribosomes showed that a fraction of Rbm3 was associated with 60S ribosomal subunits in an RNA-independent manner. It appeared unlikely that this association could explain the global enhancement of protein synthesis, however, because cells expressing the Rbm3 fusion protein showed no substantial increase in the size of their monosome and polysome peaks, suggesting that similar numbers of mRNAs were being translated at approximately the same rates. In contrast, a complex that sedimented between the top of the gradient and 40S subunits was less abundant in cells expressing recombinant Rbm3. Further analysis showed that the RNA component of this fraction was microRNA. We discuss the possibility that Rbm3 expression alters global protein synthesis by affecting microRNA levels and suggest that both Rbm3 and microRNAs are part of a homeostatic mechanism that regulates global levels of protein synthesis under normal and cold-stress conditions.

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