Ribosome-associated quality control and CAT tailing

Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2021 Dec;56(6):603-620. doi: 10.1080/10409238.2021.1938507. Epub 2021 Jul 7.


Translation is the set of mechanisms by which ribosomes decode genetic messages as they synthesize polypeptides of a defined amino acid sequence. While the ribosome has been honed by evolution for high-fidelity translation, errors are inevitable. Aberrant mRNAs, mRNA structure, defective ribosomes, interactions between nascent proteins and the ribosomal exit tunnel, and insufficient cellular resources, including low tRNA levels, can lead to functionally irreversible stalls. Life thus depends on quality control mechanisms that detect, disassemble and recycle stalled translation intermediates. Ribosome-associated Quality Control (RQC) recognizes aberrant ribosome states and targets their potentially toxic polypeptides for degradation. Here we review recent advances in our understanding of RQC in bacteria, fungi, and metazoans. We focus in particular on an unusual modification made to the nascent chain known as a "CAT tail", or Carboxy-terminal Alanine and Threonine tail, and the mechanisms by which ancient RQC proteins catalyze CAT-tail synthesis.

Keywords: CAT tails; LUCA; RQC; Ribosome-associated quality control; origins of life; peptide synthesis; protein translation; proteostasis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Eukaryota / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • Ribosomes / metabolism*