Distinct ribosome states trigger diverse mRNA quality control pathways
Key protein adapters couple translation to mRNA decay on specific classes of problematic mRNAs in eukaryotes. Slow decoding on non-optimal codons leads to codon-optimality-mediated decay (COMD) and prolonged arrest at stall sites leads to no-go decay (NGD). The identities of the decay factors underlying these processes and the mechanisms by which they respond to translational distress remain open areas of investigation. We use carefully-designed reporter mRNAs to perform genetic screens and functional assays in S. cerevisiae. We characterize the roles of Hel2 and Syh1 in coordinating translational repression and mRNA decay on NGD reporter mRNAs, finding that Syh1 acts as the primary link to mRNA decay in NGD. Importantly, we observe that these NGD factors are not involved in the degradation of mRNAs enriched in non-optimal codons. Further, we establish that a key factor previously implicated in COMD, Not5, contributes modestly to the degradation of an NGD-targeted mRNA. Finally, we use ribosome profiling to reveal distinct ribosomal states associated with each reporter mRNA that readily rationalize the contributions of NGD and COMD factors to degradation of these reporters. Taken together, these results provide new mechanistic insight into the role of Syh1 in NGD and define the molecular triggers that determine how distinct pathways target mRNAs for degradation in yeast.