Codon optimality-mediated mRNA degradation: Linking translational elongation to mRNA stability

Mol Cell. 2022 Apr 21;82(8):1467-1476. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2022.03.032.


Messenger RNA (mRNA) translation by the ribosome represents the final step of a complicated molecular dance from DNA to protein. Although classically considered a decipherer that translates a 64-word genetic code into a proteome of astonishing complexity, the ribosome can also shape the transcriptome by controlling mRNA stability. Recent work has discovered that the ribosome is an arbiter of the general mRNA degradation pathway, wherein the ribosome transit rate serves as a major determinant of transcript half-lives. Specifically, members of the degradation complex sense ribosome translocation rates as a function of ribosome elongation rates. Central to this notion is the concept of codon optimality: although all codons impact translation rates, some are deciphered quickly, whereas others cause ribosome hesitation as a consequence of relative cognate tRNA concentration. These transient pauses induce a unique ribosome conformational state that is probed by the deadenylase complex, thereby inducing an orchestrated set of events that enhance both poly(A) shortening and cap removal. Together, these data imply that the coding region of an mRNA not only encodes for protein content but also impacts protein levels through determining the transcript's fate.

Keywords: codon optimality; deadenylation; decapping; genetic code; mRNA degradation; mRNA stability; protein synthesis; ribosomes; translation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Codon / genetics
  • Codon / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA Stability* / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Ribosomes / genetics
  • Ribosomes / metabolism


  • Codon
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger