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Synthesis and Turnover of Mitochondrial Ribonucleic Acid in HeLa Cells: the Mature Ribosomal and Messenger Ribonucleic Acid Species Are Metabolically Unstable

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American Society for Microbiology
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Abstract

The synthesis rates and half-lives of the individual mitochondrial ribosomal ribonucleic acid (RNA) and polyadenylic acid-containing RNA species in HeLa cells have been determined by analyzing their kinetics of labeling with [5-^3H]-uridine and the changes in specific activity of the mitochondrial nucleotide precursor pools. In one experiment, a novel method for determining the nucleotide precursor pool specific activities, using nascent RNA chains, has been utilized. All mitochondrial RNA species analyzed were found to be metabolically unstable, with half-lives of 2.5 to 3.5 h for the two ribosomal RNA components and between 25 and 90 min for the various putative messenger RNAs. A cordycepin "chase" experiment yielded half-life values for the messenger RNA species which were, in general, larger by a factor of 1.5 to 2.5 than those estimated in the labeling kinetics experiments. On the basis of previous observations, a model is proposed whereby the rate of mitochondrial RNA decay is under feedback control by some mechanism linked to RNA synthesis or processing. A short half-life was determined for five large polyadenylated RNAs, which are probably precursors of mature species. A rate of synthesis of one to two molecules per minute per cell was estimated for the various H-strand-coded messenger RNA species, and a rate of synthesis 50 to 100 times higher was estimated for the ribosomal RNA species. These data indicate that the major portion of the H-strand in each mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid molecule is transcribed very infrequently, possibly as rarely as once or twice per cell generation. Furthermore, these results are consistent with a previously proposed model of H-strand transcription in the form of a single polycistronic molecule.

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