MRNA stability

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What is the half-life of a typical mRNA in E. coli?

Jennifer Braff and Caitlin Conboy in the Endy Lab at MIT measured the half-lives of some transcripts in E. coli MC4100 in a chemostat. This work was part of the Soup to nuts project.

They measured mRNA half-lives for the following BioBrick parts -

Construct mRNA Half-life


mRNA degradation rate


pSB4A3-I7100 3.13±0.48
pSB3K3-I7100 5.36±2.07
pSB4A3-I7101 2.19±0.28
pSB3K3-I7101 2.24±0.33 5.2E-3
pSB4A3-I7107 0.98±0.04 0.012±0.0005
pSB3K3-I7107 2.18±0.34 5.3E-3±0.81E-3
pSB4A3-I7109 1.55±0.18 0.0075±0.0009
pSB3K3-I7109 3.08±0.65 3.8E-3±0.79E-3

From the above data, we can calculate a mean value of 4.8E-3 for the three devices using B0032 on pSB3k3 (I7101, I7107, and I7109).

These data are consistent with measured half-lives for endogenous E. coli mRNA [1]. Bernstein et al. report that 80% of E. coli mRNA half-lives are between 3 and 8 min. Bernstein et al. measured a global average mRNA half-life for E. coli of 5.7 min.


  1. Bernstein JA, Khodursky AB, Lin PH, Lin-Chao S, and Cohen SN. Global analysis of mRNA decay and abundance in Escherichia coli at single-gene resolution using two-color fluorescent DNA microarrays. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jul 23;99(15):9697-702. DOI:10.1073/pnas.112318199 | PubMed ID:12119387 | HubMed [Bernstein]