Dramatic changes in gene expression occur in response to extracellular stimuli and during differentiation. Although transcriptional effects are important, alterations in mRNA decay also play a major role in achieving rapid and massive changes in mRNA abundance. Moreover, just as transcription factor activity varies between different cell types, the factors influencing mRNA decay are also cell-type specific.
We have established the rates of decay for over 7000 transcripts expressed in mouse C2C12 myoblasts. We found that GU-rich (GRE) and AU-rich (ARE) elements are over-represented in the 3'UTRs of short-lived mRNAs and that these mRNAs tend to encode factors involved in cell cycle and transcription regulation. Stabilizing elements were also identified. By comparing mRNA decay rates in C2C12 cells with those previously measured for pluripotent and differentiating embryonic stem (ES) cells, we identified several groups of transcripts that exhibit cell-type specific decay rates. Further, whereas in C2C12 cells the impact of GREs on mRNA decay appears to be greater than that of AREs, AREs are more significant in ES cells, supporting the idea that cis elements make a cell-specific contribution to mRNA stability. GREs are recognized by CUGBP1, an RNA-binding protein and instability factor whose function is affected in several neuromuscular diseases. We therefore utilized RNA immunoprecipitation followed by microarray (RIP-Chip) to identify CUGBP1-associated transcripts. These mRNAs also showed dramatic enrichment of GREs in their 3'UTRs and encode proteins linked with cell cycle, and intracellular transport. Interestingly several CUGBP1 substrate mRNAs, including those encoding the myogenic transcription factors Myod1 and Myog, are also bound by the stabilizing factor HuR in C2C12 cells. Finally, we show that several CUGBP1-associated mRNAs containing 3'UTR GREs, including Myod1, are stabilized in cells depleted of CUGBP1, consistent with the role of CUGBP1 as a destabilizing factor.
Taken together, our results systematically establish cis-acting determinants of mRNA decay rates in C2C12 myoblast cells and demonstrate that CUGBP1 associates with GREs to regulate decay of a wide range of mRNAs including several that are critical for muscle development.