PREPRINT (not yet peer-reviewed)
Transcriptome-wide mRNA condensation precedes stress granule formation and excludes stress-induced transcripts

Glauninger HG*, Bard JAM*, Hickernell CJW*, Airoldi EM, Li W, Singer RH, Paul S, Fei J, Sosnick TR, Wallace EWJ, Drummond DA, bioRxiv (2022).

* joint first authorship


Stress-induced condensation of mRNA and proteins into stress granules is conserved across eukaryotes, yet the function, formation mechanisms, and relation to well-studied conserved transcriptional responses remain largely unresolved. Stress-induced exposure of ribosome-free mRNA following translational shutoff is thought to cause condensation by allowing new multivalent RNA-dependent interactions, with RNA length and associated interaction capacity driving increased condensation. Here we show that, in striking contrast, virtually all mRNA species condense in response to multiple unrelated stresses in budding yeast, length plays a minor role, and instead, stress-induced transcripts are preferentially excluded from condensates, enabling their selective translation. Using both endogenous genes and reporter constructs, we show that translation initiation blockade, rather than resulting ribosome-free RNA, causes condensation. These translation initiation-inhibited condensates (TIICs) are biochemically detectable even when stress granules, defined as microscopically visible foci, are absent or blocked. TIICs occur in unstressed yeast cells, and, during stress, grow before the appearance of visible stress granules. Stress-induced transcripts are excluded from TIICs primarily due to the timing of their expression, rather than their sequence features. Together, our results reveal a simple system by which cells redirect translational activity to newly synthesized transcripts during stress, with broad implications for cellular regulation in changing conditions.