Method for quantitative analysis of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay at the single cell level
Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a ubiquitous mechanism of degradation of transcripts with a premature termination codon. NMD eliminates aberrant mRNA species derived from sources of genetic variation such as gene mutations, alternative splicing and DNA rearrangements in immune cells. In addition, recent data suggest that NMD is an important mechanism of global gene expression regulation. Here, we describe new reporters to quantify NMD activity at the single cell level using fluorescent proteins of two colors: green TagGFP2 and far-red Katushka. TagGFP2 was encoded by mRNA targeted to either the splicing-dependent or the long 3'UTR-dependent NMD pathway. Katushka was used as an expression level control. Comparison of the fluorescence intensities of cells expressing these reporters and cells expressing TagGFP2 and Katushka from corresponding control NMD-independent vectors allowed for the assessment of NMD activity at the single cell level using fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. The proposed reporter system was successfully tested in several mammalian cell lines and in transgenic Xenopus embryos.