University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology

Publication Date


Document Type



Computational Biology | Genomics | Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience | Molecular Genetics


Post-transcriptional control of gene expression has central importance during development and adulthood and in physiology in general. However, little is known about the extent of post-transcriptional control of gene expression in the brain. Most post-transcriptional regulatory effectors (e.g., miRNAs) destabilize target mRNAs by shortening their polyA tails. Hence, the fraction of a given mRNA that it is fully polyadenylated should correlate with its stability and serves as a good measure of post-transcriptional control. Here, we compared RNA-seq datasets from fly brains that were generated either from total (rRNA-depleted) or polyA-selected RNA. By doing this comparison we were able to compute a coefficient that measures the extent of post-transcriptional control for each brain-expressed mRNA. In agreement with current knowledge, we found that mRNAs encoding ribosomal proteins, metabolic enzymes, and housekeeping genes are among the transcripts with least post-transcriptional control, whereas mRNAs that are known to be highly unstable, like circadian mRNAs and mRNAs expressing synaptic proteins and proteins with neuronal functions, are under strong post-transcriptional control. Surprisingly, the latter group included many specific groups of genes relevant to brain function and behavior. In order to determine the importance of miRNAs in this regulation, we profiled miRNAs from fly brains using oligonucleotide microarrays. Surprisingly, we did not find a strong correlation between the expression levels of miRNAs in the brain and the stability of their target mRNAs; however, genes identified as highly regulated post-transcriptionally were strongly enriched for miRNA targets. This demonstrates a central role of miRNAs for modulating the levels and turnover of brain-specific mRNAs in the fly.


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Copyright 2013 Mezan, Ashwal-Fluss, Shenhav, Garber and Kadener. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

DOI of Published Version



Mezan S, Ashwal-Fluss R, Shenhav R, Garber M, Kadener S. Genome-wide assessment of post-transcriptional control in the fly brain. Front Mol Neurosci. 2013 Dec 9;6:49. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2013.00049. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Frontiers in molecular neuroscience

PubMed ID