The large amount of MSY2 protein, a mouse germ cell-specific Y-box protein, in oocytes and its degradation by the late two-cell stage suggest that MSY2 may stabilize and/or regulate the translation of maternal mRNAs. We report here the ability of bacterially expressed recombinant MSY2 protein to bind to mRNA and repress translation in vitro. Although MSY2 displays some sequence specificity in binding to short RNA sequences derived from the 3′ untranslated region (UTR) of the protamine 1 (Prm1) mRNA, as determined by both gel shift and filter binding assays, essentially no sequence specificity is observed when full-length Prm1 mRNA is used. The binding of MSY2 is ∼10-fold greater to the full-length Prm1 mRNA than to a 37-nucleotide sequence derived from the 3′ UTR, and gel shift assays indicate that multiple MSY2 molecules bind to a single Prm1 mRNA. MSY2 binding to luciferase mRNA at ratios of protein to mRNA that are likely to exist in the oocyte also leads to a moderate inhibition of protein synthesis in vitro. Given the abundance of MSY2 in mouse oocytes (2% of total oocyte protein), these data suggest that MSY2 packages mRNAs in vivo with relatively little sequence specificity, which may lead to both stabilization and translation repression of maternal mRNAs.
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