The functional stability of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (cat) mRNA, as well as the functional stability of the total mRNA pool, change during the course of culture growth. mRNA half-lives are long during lag phase, decrease during the exponential phase and increase again during the stationary phase of the bacterial growth cycle. The half-lives of mRNA and total mRNA also increase three- to fourfold during amino acid starvation when compared to exponential culture growth. Even though the stability of the message changes about fourfold during culture growth, the amount of mRNA per cell mass does not vary significantly between the culture growth phases, indicating that there are compensating changes in gene transcription. Translation of mRNA also changes during culture growth. In exponential phase, the rate of translation is about 14-fold higher than when the culture is in stationary phase. This is in contrast to the fourfold increase in stability of mRNA in the stationary-phase culture compared to the exponentially growing culture and indicates that active translation is not correlated with increased mRNA stability. When a stationary-phase culture was diluted into fresh medium, there was a five- to sevenfold increase in CAT synthesis and a threefold increase in total protein synthesis in the presence or absence of rifampicin. These results suggest that while mRNA becomes generally more stable and less translated in the stationary-phase culture, the mRNA is available for immediate translation when nutrients are provided to the culture even when transcription is inhibited.


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