The coupled regulation of oskar mRNA localization and translation in time and space is critical for correct anteroposterior patterning of the Drosophila embryo. Localization-dependent translation of oskar mRNA, a mechanism whereby oskar RNA localized at the posterior of the oocyte is selectively translated and the unlocalized RNA remains in a translationally repressed state, ensures that Oskar activity is present exclusively at the posterior pole. Genetic experiments indicate that translational repression involves the binding of Bruno protein to multiple sites, the Bruno Response Elements (BRE), in the 3′ untranslated region (UTR) of oskar mRNA. We have established a cell-free translation system derived from Drosophila ovaries, which faithfully reproduces critical features of mRNA translation in vivo, namely cap structure and poly(A) tail dependence. We show that this ovary extract, containing endogenous Bruno, is able to recapitulate oskar mRNA regulation in a BRE-dependent way. Thus, the assembly of a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex leading to the translationally repressed state occurs in vitro. Moreover, we show that a Drosophila embryo extract lacking Bruno efficiently translates oskar mRNA. Addition of recombinant Bruno to this extract establishes the repressed state in a BRE-dependent manner, providing a direct biochemical demonstration of the critical role of Bruno in oskar mRNA translation. The approach that we describe opens new avenues to investigate translational regulation in Drosophila oogenesis at a biochemical level.

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