Poly(A)-tail profiling reveals an embryonic switch in translational control

Nature. 2014 Apr 3;508(7494):66-71. doi: 10.1038/nature13007. Epub 2014 Jan 29.


Poly(A) tails enhance the stability and translation of most eukaryotic messenger RNAs, but difficulties in globally measuring poly(A)-tail lengths have impeded greater understanding of poly(A)-tail function. Here we describe poly(A)-tail length profiling by sequencing (PAL-seq) and apply it to measure tail lengths of millions of individual RNAs isolated from yeasts, cell lines, Arabidopsis thaliana leaves, mouse liver, and zebrafish and frog embryos. Poly(A)-tail lengths were conserved between orthologous mRNAs, with mRNAs encoding ribosomal proteins and other 'housekeeping' proteins tending to have shorter tails. As expected, tail lengths were coupled to translational efficiencies in early zebrafish and frog embryos. However, this strong coupling diminished at gastrulation and was absent in non-embryonic samples, indicating a rapid developmental switch in the nature of translational control. This switch complements an earlier switch to zygotic transcriptional control and explains why the predominant effect of microRNA-mediated deadenylation concurrently shifts from translational repression to mRNA destabilization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Gastrulation / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Poly A / analysis*
  • Poly A / genetics
  • Protein Biosynthesis / genetics*
  • RNA Stability / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Ribosomes / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Xenopus / embryology
  • Xenopus / genetics
  • Yeasts / genetics
  • Zebrafish / embryology
  • Zebrafish / genetics
  • Zygote / metabolism


  • MicroRNAs
  • Mirn155 microRNA, mouse
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Poly A

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE52809