Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Lost in Translation: Translation Mechanisms in Production of Cocksfoot Mottle Virus Proteins

Katri Mäkeläinen

Doctoral dissertation, March 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Applied Chemistry and Microbiology, Microbiology.

The present study focuses on the translational strategies of Cocksfoot mottle virus (CfMV, genus Sobemovirus), which infects monocotyledonous plants. CfMV RNA lacks the 5'cap and the 3'poly(A) tail that ensure efficient translation of cellular messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Instead, CfMV RNA is covalently linked to a viral protein VPg (viral protein, genome-linked). This indicates that the viral untranslated regions (UTRs) must functionally compensate for the lack of the cap and poly(A) tail. We examined the efficacy of translation initiation in CfMV by comparing it to well-studied viral translational enhancers. Although insertion of the CfMV 5'UTR (CfMVe) into plant expression vectors improved gene expression in barley more than the other translational enhancers examined, studies at the RNA level showed that CfMVe alone or in combination with the CfMV 3'UTR did not provide the RNAs translational advantage. Mutation analysis revealed that translation initiation from CfMVe involved scanning. Interestingly, CfMVe also promoted translation initiation from an intercistronic position of dicistronic mRNAs in vitro. Furthermore, internal initiation occurred with similar efficacy in translation lysates that had reduced concentrations of eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4E, suggesting that initiation was independent of the eIF4E. In contrast, reduced translation in the eIF4G-depleted lysates indicated that translation from internally positioned CfMVe was eIF4G-dependent.

After successful translation initiation, leaky scanning brings the ribosomes to the second open reading frame (ORF). The CfMV polyprotein is produced from this and the following overlapping ORF via programmed -1 ribosomal frameshift (-1 PRF). Two signals in the mRNA at the beginning of the overlap program approximately every fifth ribosome to slip one nucleotide backwards and continue translation in the new -1 frame. This leads to the production of C-terminally extended polyprotein, which encodes the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). The -1 PRF event in CfMV was very efficient, even though it was programmed by a simple stem-loop structure instead of a pseudoknot, which is usually required for high -1 PRF frequencies. Interestingly, regions surrounding the -1 PRF signals improved the -1 PRF frequencies. Viral protein P27 inhibited the -1 PRF event in vivo, putatively by binding to the -1 PRF site. This suggested that P27 could regulate the occurrence of -1 PRF.

Initiation of viral replication requires that viral proteins are released from the polyprotein. This is catalyzed by viral serine protease, which is also encoded from the polyprotein. N-terminal amino acid sequencing of CfMV VPg revealed that the junction of the protease and VPg was cleaved between glutamate (E) and asparagine (N) residues. This suggested that the processing sites used in CfMV differ from the glutamate and serine (S) or threonine (T) sites utilized in other sobemoviruses. However, further analysis revealed that the E/S and E/T sites may be used to cleave out some of the CfMV proteins.

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Last updated 22.03.2006

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