A stress-activated, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase-ATF/CREB pathway regulates posttranscriptional, sequence-dependent decay of target RNAs

Mol Cell Biol. 2013 Aug;33(15):3026-35. doi: 10.1128/MCB.00349-13. Epub 2013 Jun 3.


Broadly conserved, mitogen-activated/stress-activated protein kinases (MAPK/SAPK) of the p38 family regulate multiple cellular processes. They transduce signals via dimeric, basic leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factors of the ATF/CREB family (such as Atf2, Fos, and Jun) to regulate the transcription of target genes. We report additional mechanisms for gene regulation by such pathways exerted through RNA stability controls. The Spc1 (Sty1/Phh1) kinase-regulated Atf1-Pcr1 (Mts1-Mts2) heterodimer of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe controls the stress-induced, posttranscriptional stability and decay of sets of target RNAs. Whole transcriptome RNA sequencing data revealed that decay is associated nonrandomly with transcripts that contain an M26 sequence motif. Moreover, the ablation of an M26 sequence motif in a target mRNA is sufficient to block its stress-induced loss. Conversely, engineered M26 motifs can render a stable mRNA into one that is targeted for decay. This stress-activated RNA decay (SARD) provides a mechanism for reducing the expression of target genes without shutting off transcription itself. Thus, a single p38-ATF/CREB signal transduction pathway can coordinately induce (promote transcription and RNA stability) and repress (promote RNA decay) transcript levels for distinct sets of genes, as is required for developmental decisions in response to stress and other stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 1 / genetics
  • Activating Transcription Factor 1 / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • RNA Stability*
  • RNA, Fungal / chemistry
  • RNA, Fungal / genetics
  • RNA, Fungal / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Schizosaccharomyces / chemistry
  • Schizosaccharomyces / genetics*
  • Schizosaccharomyces / metabolism*
  • Schizosaccharomyces pombe Proteins / genetics
  • Schizosaccharomyces pombe Proteins / metabolism*


  • Activating Transcription Factor 1
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA, Fungal
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Schizosaccharomyces pombe Proteins
  • atf1 protein, S pombe