[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Translationally competent mRNAs form a closed loop via interaction of initiation factors with the 5' cap and poly(A) tail. However, many viral mRNAs lack a cap and/or a poly(A) tail. We show that an uncapped, nonpolyadenylated plant viral mRNA forms a closed loop by direct base-pairing (kissing) of a stem loop in the 3' untranslated region (UTR) with a stem loop in the 5' UTR. This allows a sequence in the 3' UTR to confer translation initiation at the 5'-proximal AUG. This base-pairing is also required for replication. Unlike other cap-independent translation mechanisms, the ribosome enters at the 5' end of the mRNA. This remarkably long-distance base-pairing reveals a novel mechanism of cap-independent translation and means by which mRNA UTRs can communicate.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Barley yellow dwarf virus RNA lacks both a 5' cap and a poly(A) tail, yet it is translated efficiently. It contains a cap-independent translation element (TE), located in the 3' UTR, that confers efficient translation initiation at the AUG closest to the 5' end of the mRNA. We propose that the TE must both recruit ribosomes and facilitate 3'-5' communication. To dissect its function, we determined the secondary structure of the TE and roles of domains within it. Nuclease probing and structure-directed mutagenesis revealed that the 105-nt TE (TE105) forms a cruciform secondary structure containing four helices connected by single-stranded regions. TE105 can function in either UTR in wheat germ translation extracts. A longer viral sequence (at most 869 nt) is required for full cap-independent translation in plant cells. However, substantial translation of uncapped mRNAs can be obtained in plant cells with TE105 combined with a poly(A) tail. All secondary structural elements and most primary sequences that were mutated are required for cap-independent translation in the 3' and 5' UTR contexts. A seven-base loop sequence was needed only in the 3' UTR context. Thus, this loop sequence may be involved only in communication between the UTRs and not directly in recruiting translational machinery. This structural and functional analysis provides a framework for understanding an emerging class of cap-independent translation elements distinguished by their location in the 3' UTR.