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Construction of regulatable picornavirus IRESes as a test of current models of the mechanism of internal translation initiation

  • TUIJA A.A. PÖYRY (a1), MATTHIAS W. HENTZE (a2) and RICHARD J. JACKSON (a1)

Abstract

Picornavirus internal ribosome entry sites (IRESs) are ∼450 nt. RNA elements that direct internal initiation of translation, such that when placed between the two cistrons of a dicistronic construct, they drive independent translation of the downstream cistron. Consequently they have been widely used for coordinated expression of two or more proteins. All picornavirus IRESs have an AUG triplet at the very 3′ end, which is thought to be the actual site of internal ribosome entry. However with some IRESs, such as foot-and-mouth disease virus, and especially poliovirus, the majority of ribosomes do not initiate translation at this putative entry site AUG, but at the next AUG further downstream, which is thought to be accessed by a process of linear ribosome scanning from the entry site. If this is so, then it should be possible to regulate IRES-dependent translation by inserting an iron responsive element (IRE) between the putative entry site AUG and the main functional initiation site. This should make IRES-dependent translation sensitive to the concentration of iron regulatory protein (IRP), the protein that specifically binds to the IRE. This has been attempted with both the foot-and-mouth disease virus and poliovirus IRESs, and was successful in so far as an inhibition specifically of IRES-dependent translation was observed that was strictly dependent on both the presence of IRP and of a functional IRE motif inserted in the sense orientation. However, the range over which expression could be varied was rather limited (three- to fourfold maximum), because some IRES-dependent translation remained completely refractory to inhibition by even very high IRP concentrations. In contrast, with a cap-proximal IRE in the 5′ untranslated region of an mRNA translated by the scanning mechanism, addition of sufficient IRP results in complete inhibition. These results support the model of IRES-promoted ribosome entry at an upstream site followed by strictly linear scanning to the main functional initiation site for the majority of internal initiation events, but imply that some ribosomes must access the functional initiation site by another route, possibly a nonlinear shunting-like mechanism.

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Reprint requests to: Dr. Richard J. Jackson, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, 80 Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1GA, United Kingdom; e-mail: rjj@mole.bio.cam.ac.uk.

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Construction of regulatable picornavirus IRESes as a test of current models of the mechanism of internal translation initiation

  • TUIJA A.A. PÖYRY (a1), MATTHIAS W. HENTZE (a2) and RICHARD J. JACKSON (a1)

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