Early rRNA processing is a stress-dependent regulatory event whose inhibition maintains nucleolar integrity

Nucleic Acids Res. 2022 Jan 25;50(2):1033-1051. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkab1231.


The production of ribosomes is an energy-intensive process owing to the intricacy of these massive macromolecular machines. Each human ribosome contains 80 ribosomal proteins and four non-coding RNAs. Accurate assembly requires precise regulation of protein and RNA subunits. In response to stress, the integrated stress response (ISR) rapidly inhibits global translation. How rRNA is coordinately regulated with the rapid inhibition of ribosomal protein synthesis is not known. Here, we show that stress specifically inhibits the first step of rRNA processing. Unprocessed rRNA is stored within the nucleolus, and when stress resolves, it re-enters the ribosome biogenesis pathway. Retention of unprocessed rRNA within the nucleolus aids in the maintenance of this organelle. This response is independent of the ISR or inhibition of cellular translation but is independently regulated. Failure to coordinately control ribosomal protein translation and rRNA production results in nucleolar fragmentation. Our study unveils how the rapid translational shut-off in response to stress coordinates with rRNA synthesis production to maintain nucleolar integrity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Organelle Biogenesis
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional
  • RNA, Ribosomal / metabolism*
  • Ribosomal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ribosomes* / genetics
  • Ribosomes* / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • Ribosomal Proteins