Noise reduction by upstream open reading frames

Nat Plants. 2022 May;8(5):474-480. doi: 10.1038/s41477-022-01136-8. Epub 2022 May 2.


Gene expression is prone to burst production, making it a highly noisy process that requires additional controls. Upstream open reading frames (uORFs) are widely present in the 5' leader sequences of 30-50% of eukaryotic messenger RNAs1-3. The translation of uORFs can repress the translation efficiency of the downstream main coding sequences. Whether the low translation efficiency leads to a different variation, or noise, in gene expression has not been investigated, nor has the direct biological impact of uORF-repressed translation. Here we show that uORFs achieve low but precise protein production in plant cells, possibly by reducing the protein production rate. We also demonstrate that, by buffering a stable TIMING OF CAB EXPRESSION 1 (TOC1) protein production level, uORFs contribute to the robust operation of the plant circadian clock. Our results provide both an action model and the biological impact of uORFs in translational control to mitigate transcriptional noise for precise protein production.

MeSH terms

  • Open Reading Frames
  • Plants* / genetics
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics


  • RNA, Messenger