Structural determinants of an internal ribosome entry site that direct translational reading frame selection
Oxford University Press
The dicistrovirus intergenic internal ribosome entry site (IGR IRES) directly recruits the ribosome and initiates translation using a non-AUG codon. A subset of IGR IRESs initiates translation in either of two overlapping open reading frames (ORFs), resulting in expression of the 0 frame viral structural polyprotein and an overlapping +1 frame ORFx. A U–G base pair adjacent to the anticodon-like pseudoknot of the IRES directs +1 frame translation. Here, we show that the U-G base pair is not absolutely required for +1 frame translation. Extensive mutagenesis demonstrates that 0 and +1 frame translation can be uncoupled. Ribonucleic acid (RNA) structural probing analyses reveal that the mutant IRESs adopt distinct conformations. Toeprinting analysis suggests that the reading frame is selected at a step downstream of ribosome assembly. We propose a model whereby the IRES adopts conformations to occlude the 0 frame aminoacyl-tRNA thereby allowing delivery of the +1 frame aminoacyl-tRNA to the A site to initiate translation of ORFx. This study provides a new paradigm for programmed recoding mechanisms that increase the coding capacity of a viral genome.