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A selection system for functional internal ribosome entry site (IRES) elements: Analysis of the requirement for a conserved GNRA tetraloop in the encephalomyocarditis virus IRES

  • MORWENNA E.M. ROBERTSON (a1), RACHAEL A. SEAMONS (a1) and GRAHAM J. BELSHAM (a1)

Abstract

Picornavirus internal ribosome entry site (IRES) elements direct cap-independent internal initiation of protein synthesis within mammalian cells. These RNA elements (about 450 nt) contain extensive secondary structure including a hairpin loop with a conserved GNRA motif. Such loops are important in RNA–RNA and RNA–protein interactions. Plasmids that express dicistronic mRNAs of the structure GUS/IRES/HOOK have been constructed. The HOOK sequence encodes a cell-surface-targeted protein (sFv); the translation of this open reading frame within mammalian cells from these dicistronic mRNAs requires a functional IRES element. Cells that express the sFv can be selected from nonexpressing cells. A pool of up to 256 mutant encephalomyocarditis virus IRES elements was generated by converting the wild-type hairpin loop sequence (GCGA) to NNNN. Following transfection of this pool of mutants into COS-7 cells, plasmids were recovered from selected sFv-expressing cells. These DNAs were amplified in Escherichia coli and transfected again into COS-7 cells for further cycles to enrich for plasmids encoding functional IRES elements. The sequence of individual selected IRES elements was determined. All functional IRES elements had a tetraloop with a 3′ terminal A residue. Optimal IRES activity, assayed in vitro and within cells, was obtained from plasmids encoding an IRES with the hairpin loop sequence fitting a RNRA consensus. In contrast, IRES elements containing YCYA tetraloops were severely defective.

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Reprint requests to: Graham J. Belsham, BBSRC Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright, Woking, Surrey, GU24 ONF, United Kingdom; e-mail: graham.belsham@bbsrc.ac.uk.

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A selection system for functional internal ribosome entry site (IRES) elements: Analysis of the requirement for a conserved GNRA tetraloop in the encephalomyocarditis virus IRES

  • MORWENNA E.M. ROBERTSON (a1), RACHAEL A. SEAMONS (a1) and GRAHAM J. BELSHAM (a1)

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