Failure to Degrade CAT-Tailed Proteins Disrupts Neuronal Morphogenesis and Cell Survival

Udagawa, Tsuyoshi, et al. “Failure to Degrade CAT-Tailed Proteins Disrupts Neuronal Morphogenesis and Cell Survival.” Cell Reports, no. 1, Elsevier BV, Jan. 2021, p. 108599. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108599.


Ribosome-associated quality control (RQC) relieves stalled ribosomes and eliminates potentially toxic nascent polypeptide chains (NCs) that can cause neurodegeneration. During RQC, RQC2 modifies NCs with a C-terminal alanine and threonine (CAT) tail. CAT tailing promotes ubiquitination of NCs for proteasomal degradation, while RQC failure in budding yeast disrupts proteostasis via CAT-tailed NC aggregation. However, the CAT tail and its cytotoxicity in mammals have remained largely uncharacterized. We demonstrate that NEMF, a mammalian RQC2 homolog, modifies translation products of nonstop mRNAs, major erroneous mRNAs in mammals, with a C-terminal tail mainly composed of alanine with several other amino acids. Overproduction of nonstop mRNAs induces NC aggregation and caspase-3-dependent apoptosis and impairs neuronal morphogenesis, which are ameliorated by NEMF depletion. Moreover, we found that homopolymeric alanine tailing at least partially accounts for CAT-tail cytotoxicity. These findings explain the cytotoxicity of CAT-tailed NCs and demonstrate physiological significance of RQC on proper neuronal morphogenesis and cell survival.