Alternative 3' UTRs play a widespread role in translation-independent mRNA association with the endoplasmic reticulum

Cell Rep. 2021 Jul 20;36(3):109407. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109407.


Transcripts encoding membrane and secreted proteins are known to associate with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) through translation. Here, using cell fractionation, polysome profiling, and 3' end sequencing, we show that transcripts differ substantially in translation-independent ER association (TiERA). Genes in certain functional groups, such as cell signaling, tend to have significantly higher TiERA potentials than others, suggesting the importance of ER association for their mRNA metabolism, such as localized translation. The TiERA potential of a transcript is determined largely by size, sequence content, and RNA structures. Alternative polyadenylation (APA) isoforms can have distinct TiERA potentials because of changes in transcript features. The widespread 3' UTR lengthening in cell differentiation leads to greater transcript association with the ER, especially for genes that are capable of expressing very long 3' UTRs. Our data also indicate that TiERA is in dynamic competition with translation-dependent ER association, suggesting limited space on the ER for mRNA association.

Keywords: 3′ UTR; RNA structure; alternative 3′UTR; alternative polyadenylation; cell differentiation; endoplasmic reticulum; mRNA subcellular localization; myogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Polyadenylation
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Protein Isoforms
  • RNA, Messenger