Depletion of nuclear poly(A) binding protein PABPN1 produces a compensatory response by cytoplasmic PABP4 and PABP5 in cultured human cells

PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e53036. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053036. Epub 2012 Dec 31.


Background: In vertebrates, poly(A) binding protein (PABP) is known to exist in five different isoforms. PABPs are primarily cytosolic with the exception of the nuclear PABP (PABPN1), which is located in the nucleus. Within the nucleus, PABPN1 is believed to bind to the poly(A) tail of nascent mRNA and along with cleavage and polyadenylation specificity factor (CPSF) define the length of the newly synthesized poly(A) tail.

Methodology/principal findings: The cellular role of PABP1 has been extensively studied over the years; however, the function of other PABPs remains poorly defined. In order to understand the role of PABPN1 in cellular mRNA metabolism and it's interrelation with other PABPs, we depleted PABPN1 using RNAi in HeLa and HEK293 cells. Our results show that PABPN1 depletion did not have any effect on the poly(A) tail length, nuclear export of mRNA, mRNA translation, and transcription. Rather, PABPN1 depletion resulted in a compensatory response as observed by increased level of PABP5 and nuclear accumulation of PABP4. In addition, PABP4 was associated with the poly(A) tract of pre-mRNA and CPSF in PABPN1 depleted cells. Nevertheless, PABPN1 depletion significantly affected cell survival as evidenced by an increase in apoptosis markers: phosphorylated p53 and PUMA and as judged by the expression of ER stress marker GRP78.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that although function of PABPN1 may be compensated by nuclear translocation of PABP4 and perhaps by increase in the cytoplasmic abundance of PABP5, these were not sufficient to prevent apoptosis of cells. Thus PABPN1 may have a novel anti apoptotic role in mammalian cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Blood Proteins / genetics
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasm / genetics
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Poly(A)-Binding Protein I / genetics
  • Poly(A)-Binding Protein I / metabolism*
  • Poly(A)-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Poly(A)-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transfection


  • Blood Proteins
  • PABPC4 protein, human
  • PABPN1 protein, human
  • Poly(A)-Binding Protein I
  • Poly(A)-Binding Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger

Grant support

This study has been funded by The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.