A novel stop codon readthrough mechanism produces functional Headcase protein in Drosophila trachea

EMBO Rep. 2001 Jul;2(7):593-7. doi: 10.1093/embo-reports/kve128.


Translational regulation provides an efficient means to control the localization and production of proteins. The headcase (hdc) mRNA in Drosophila generates two overlapping proteins as a result of translational readthrough of an internal UAA stop codon. This readthrough event is necessary for the function of hdc as a branching inhibitor during tracheal development. By ectopic expression of different Hdc proteins in the trachea, we show that the long Hdc form alone, can function as a potent branching inhibitor whose activity is proportional to its amount. The suppression of termination in the hdc mRNA is not stop-codon dependent, suggesting that the readthrough does not involve codon specific suppressors. We have identified an 80 nucleotide sequence immediately downstream of the UAA, which is necessary and sufficient to confer termination readthrough in a heterologous mRNA. We present a novel mechanism of eukaryotic translational termination suppression that may regulate the amount of functional Hdc.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Codon, Terminator*
  • Drosophila Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Immunoblotting
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Trachea / cytology
  • Trachea / growth & development


  • Codon, Terminator
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Hdc protein, Drosophila
  • RNA, Messenger