Posttranscriptional regulation plays a crucial role in shaping gene expression. During the maternal-to-zygotic transition (MZT), thousands of maternal transcripts are regulated. However, how different cis-elements and trans-factors are integrated to determine mRNA stability remains poorly understood. Here, we show that most transcripts are under combinatorial regulation by multiple decay pathways during zebrafish MZT. By using a massively parallel reporter assay, we identified cis-regulatory sequences in the 3' UTR, including U-rich motifs that are associated with increased mRNA stability. In contrast, miR-430 target sequences, UAUUUAUU AU-rich elements (ARE), CCUC, and CUGC elements emerged as destabilizing motifs, with miR-430 and AREs causing mRNA deadenylation upon genome activation. We identified trans-factors by profiling RNA-protein interactions and found that poly(U)-binding proteins are preferentially associated with 3' UTR sequences and stabilizing motifs. We show that this activity is antagonized by C-rich motifs and correlated with protein binding. Finally, we integrated these regulatory motifs into a machine learning model that predicts reporter mRNA stability in vivo.
© 2019 Vejnar et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.