Characterization of the stop codon readthrough signal of Colorado tick fever virus segment 9 RNA.

Division of Virology, Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
RNA (Impact Factor: 5.09). 12/2011; 18(2):241-52. DOI: 10.1261/rna.030338.111
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Termination codon readthrough is utilized as a mechanism of expression of a growing number of viral and cellular proteins, but in many cases the mRNA signals that promote readthrough are poorly characterized. Here, we investigated the readthrough signal of Colorado tick fever virus (CTFV) segment 9 RNA (Seg-9). CTFV is the type-species of the genus Coltivirus within the family Reoviridae and is a tick-borne, double-stranded, segmented RNA virus. Seg-9 encodes a 36-kDa protein VP9, and by readthrough of a UGA stop codon, a 65-kDa product, VP9'. Using a reporter system, we defined the minimal sequence requirements for readthrough and confirmed activity in both mammalian and insect cell-free translation systems, and in transfected mammalian cells. Mutational analysis revealed that readthrough was UGA specific, and that the local sequence context around the UGA influenced readthrough efficiency. Readthrough was also dependent upon a stable RNA stem-loop structure beginning eight bases downstream from the UGA codon. Mutational analysis of this stem-loop revealed a requirement for the stem region but not for substructures identified within the loop. Unexpectedly, we were unable to detect a ribosomal pause during translation of the CTFV signal, suggesting that the mechanism of readthrough, at least at this site, is unlikely to be dependent upon RNA secondary-structure induced ribosomal pausing at the recoded stop codon.

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