Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) was originally coined to define a quality control mechanism that targets mRNAs with truncated open reading frames due to the presence of a premature termination codon. Meanwhile, it became clear that NMD has a much broader impact on gene expression and additional biological functions beyond quality control are continuously being discovered. We review here the current views regarding the molecular mechanisms of NMD, according to which NMD ensues on mRNAs that fail to terminate translation properly, and point out the gaps in our understanding. We further summarize the recent literature on an ever-rising spectrum of biological processes in which NMD appears to be involved, including homeostatic control of gene expression, development and differentiation, as well as viral defense. WIREs RNA 2016, 7:661-682. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1357 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
© 2016 The Authors. WIREs RNA published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.