The Meaning of NMD: Translate or Perish

Trends Genet. 2016 Jul;32(7):395-407. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2016.04.007. Epub 2016 May 14.


Premature translation termination leads to a reduced mRNA level in all types of organisms. In eukaryotes, the phenomenon is known as nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD). This is commonly regarded as the output of a specific surveillance and destruction mechanism that is activated by the presence of a premature translation termination codon (PTC) in an atypical sequence context. Despite two decades of research, it is still unclear how NMD discriminates between PTCs and normal stop codons. We suggest that cells do not possess any such mechanism and instead propose a new model in which this mRNA depletion is a consequence of the appearance of long tracts of mRNA that are unprotected by scanning ribosomes.

Keywords: 3′-UTR; EJC; mRNA quality control; mRNA surveillance; ribosome; translation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Codon, Nonsense / genetics*
  • Codon, Terminator / genetics
  • Nonsense Mediated mRNA Decay / genetics*
  • Peptide Chain Termination, Translational*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • Ribosomes / genetics


  • Codon, Nonsense
  • Codon, Terminator
  • RNA, Messenger