The eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4A (eIF4A) is an RNA helicase required for translation initiation of eukaryotic mRNAs. By engineering fission yeast mutants with diminished eIF4A activity, we have found that translation of cdc25 mRNAs (a dosage-dependent activator of mitosis in all eukaryotic cells) is particularly sensitive to limitations of protein synthesis mediated by limited eIF4A activity. Genetic and biochemical analysis indicated that a rate-limited translation initiation of cdc25 mRNAs, exerted throughout its unusual 5′ untranslated leader, acts as a molecular sensor to ensure that a minimum cell mass (protein synthesis) is attained before mitosis occurs. The Cdc13 cyclin B is also among the limited pool of proteins whose translation is sensitive to reduced translation initiation activity. Interestingly, the 5′ leader sequences of cdc25 and cdc13 mRNAs have conserved features which are unusual in other yeast mRNAs, suggesting that common mechanisms operate in the expression of these two key mitotic activators at the translational level.

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