In response to stress, eukaryotic cells accumulate mRNAs and proteins at discrete sites, or foci, in the cytoplasm. However, the mechanisms regulating foci formation, and the biological function of the larger ribonucleoprotein (RNP) assemblies, remain poorly understood. Here, we show that the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a key regulator of the assembly of processing bodies (P bodies), an RNP complex implicated in mRNA processing and translation. The data suggest that PKA specifically inhibits the formation of the larger P body aggregates by directly phosphorylating Pat1, a conserved constituent of these foci that functions as a scaffold during the assembly process. Finally, we present evidence indicating that P body foci are required for the long-term survival of stationary phase cells. This work therefore highlights the general relevance of RNP foci in quiescent cells, and provides a framework for the study of the many RNP assemblies that form in eukaryotic cells.
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