A ?1 ribosomal frameshift element that requires
base pairing across four kilobases suggests a
mechanism of regulating ribosome and
replicase traffic on a viral RNA
Jennifer K. Barry* and W. Allen Miller†
Plant Pathology Department, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011
Edited by Reed B. Wickner, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, and approved June 14, 2002 (received for review April 12, 2002)
Programmed ?1 ribosomal frameshifting is necessary for transla-
tion of the polymerase genes of many viruses. In addition to the
consensus elements in the mRNA around the frameshift site, we
found previously that frameshifting on Barley yellow dwarf virus
using dual luciferase reporter constructs, we now show that a
predicted loop in the far downstream frameshift element must
base pair to a bulge in a bulged stem loop adjacent to the
frameshift site. Introduction of either two or six base mismatches
in either the bulge or the far downstream loop abolished frame-
reestablished frameshifting. Likewise, disruption of this base pair-
ing abolished viral RNA replication in plant cells, and restoration of
base pairing completely reestablished virus replication. We pro-
pose a model in which Barley yellow dwarf virus uses this and
another long-distance base-pairing event required for cap-inde-
pendent translation to allow the replicase copying from the 3? end
to shut off translation of upstream ORFs and free the RNA of
ribosomes to allow unimpeded replication. This would be a means
of solving the ‘‘problem,’’ common to positive strand RNA viruses,
of competition between ribosomes and replicase for the same RNA
genes and induce the ribosome to change reading frame during
translation (1, 2). In ?1 frameshifting, a small percentage of the
ribosomes back up one base relative to the codons in the initial
reading frame (the zero frame) and continue elongation in the
new (?1) frame. This process is facilitated by specific sequences
and structures in the mRNA (3, 4). The known frameshift-
inducing elements include the shifty (slippery) heptanucleotide
X XXY YYZ, where spaces separate codons in the zero frame,
X is any base, Y is A or U, and Z is not G (2, 5), and a highly
structured element beginning five to six bases downstream. This
adjacent downstream element is usually a pseudoknot (4, 6). In
some contexts, a simple stem loop may suffice (7, 8), but those
exceptions may still require a pseudoknot for full frameshift
The mechanism by which the mRNA interacts with the
ribosome to bring about a frameshift remains a mystery. Some-
how, the tRNAs in the ribosomal A and P sites simultaneously
slip back one base on the mRNA before (5) or after (3) peptide
frame. This requires pausing of the ribosome induced by the
adjacent pseudoknot in the mRNA (10, 11). A long-standing
enigma has been the observations that only certain pseudoknots
facilitate frameshifting, whereas other very similar structures of
comparable stability do not cause frameshifting (12–14), even
though they induce pausing (15). Other elements, such as
downstream stop codons and the RNA sequences surrounding
sequence, the mRNAs of many viruses harbor overlapping
the shifty site, can influence the effectiveness of these signals
(16). Mutations in ribosomal proteins (17), translation factors
(18), and nonsense-mediated decay factors (19) can alter frame-
shift efficiency. Their precise roles are unknown.
The true contributions of the above cis and trans acting
can be difficult to assess, as most studies rely on reporter
plasmids using small portions of viral sequence. Yet, viral gene
expression and replication, can be controlled by long-distance
interactions on viral RNAs (20, 21). In poliovirus (22) and
bacteriophage Q? (23) RNAs, replicase binds far upstream of
the 3? end, shutting off translation, and is delivered to the 3? end,
where replication initiates, by protein–RNA interactions in
poliovirus (20) or long-distance base pairing in Q? RNA (24).
These long-distance interactions allow these RNA viruses to
switch between replication and translation, events that are
incompatible on the same RNA. How other viruses regulate this
switch is poorly understood. Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV)
uses multiple long-distance interactions to regulate cap-
independent translation initiation (25), ribosomal frameshifting
(26), and leaky termination (27). The cap-independent transla-
tion element (3? TE) in the 3? untranslated region (UTR) must
form base pairs with a stem loop in the 5? UTR to facilitate
translation of this naturally uncapped mRNA (25). The effects
of such interactions would be missed in studies that examine the
translation signals out of their natural sequence context.
ORF 2, which codes for the RNA-dependent RNA polymer-
ase (RdRp) of BYDV, is expressed via ?1 frameshift from the
overlapping ORF 1 (Fig. 1A). Frameshifting takes place at the
shifty site, G GGU UUU, yielding the 99-kDa fusion product
(P1-2) of the 39-kDa ORF 1 product (P1) and 60-kDa ORF 2
product (28, 29). Beginning 6 nt downstream of the shifty
heptanucleotide, a large bulged stem-loop structure is predicted
(29). An additional sequence located 4 kilobases downstream in
the 3? UTR of BYDV genomic RNA is necessary for frame-
shifting in wheat germ extract (WGE) (26). This includes a
50-base essential ‘‘core’’ element (nt 5,050–5,100) and an adja-
cent ‘‘enhancer’’ region (BYDV nt 5,101–5,283) that, when
deleted, causes a 50% decrease in frameshifting (26). Here, we
use a dual luciferase reporter system (30) to map the distant
downstream element at higher resolution in vivo and in vitro. We
find that an intramolecular association of this element with the
bulge of the stem loop at the frameshift site via base pairing is
required. We propose a role for this remarkable new type of
This paper was submitted directly (Track II) to the PNAS office.
Abbreviations: BYDV, Barley yellow dwarf virus; ADSL, adjacent downstream stem loop;
LDFE, long-distance frameshift element; WGE, wheat germ extract; UTR, untranslated
region; RdRp, RNA-dependent RNA polymerase.
*Present address: Pioneer Hi-Bred International, 7300 SW 62nd Avenue, Johnston,
†To whom reprint requests should be addressed. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 20, 2002 ?
vol. 99 ?
no. 17 ?
frameshift signal, along with the long-distance cap-independent
translation base pairing, in an elegant mechanism for regulating
translation and replication.
Materials and Methods
Template Construction for Frameshift Assay. The dual luciferase
vector was constructed by cloning the Renilla (jellyfish) lucif-
erase gene (rLUC) and the BYDV frameshift site into p5?UTR-
fLUC-TE869-(A)60 (31). This vector contains the 5?UTR of
BYDV (nt 1–152), a Photonius (firefly) luciferase gene (fLUC),
the 3?UTR (nt 4809–5677), and a 60-base poly(A) tail. The
rLUC gene was generated by PCR with BssHII and KpnI
the BYDV 5? UTR and the KpnI site in the 5? end of fLUC.
Sequence spanning the BYDV frameshift site (nt 1,039–1,262)
was then ligated in between the rLUC and fLUC genes by using
the ApaI?SacI site so that a ?1 frameshift is necessary for
translation of the downstream fLUC ORF. The 1,039–1,262-nt
region was generated by PCR from three different plasmids:
pPAV6 with the wild-type shifty site (G GGU UUU); pM4,
which differs only by an insertion in the shifty site (G GGU UUC
U), placing fLUC in-frame with the upstream rLUC gene; and
26). All other mutations in the frameshift region were generated
by incorporating the nucleotide changes into the forward or
reverse primer. All mutants were cloned into all three vectors:
the wild-type, the in-frame, and the disrupted shifty site.
The 3? UTR mutations were generated by using full-length
BYDV genomic clone pPAV6 as template (28). Deletions were
generated via the ExSite PCR-based site-directed mutagenesis
kit (Stratagene). The forward and reverse primers contain an
NcoI site at either the 3? or the 5? end of the deletion desired.
The PCR reaction was cleaved with NcoI, and then the two ends
were ligated. The region between BamHI4837and SmaI5677sites
was sequenced before ligation into the dual luciferase vector by
using these sites. Point mutations were introduced by using the
Quick Change method (Stratagene). Forward and reverse prim-
ers containing the desired mutations were used on pPAV6
template. Mutations were sequenced and cloned into the dual
luciferase vector as described above.
Insertion mutants were generated by amplifying the BYDV
sequence using a forward primer with BamHI and a reverse
primer with SmaI sites at their 5? termini to produce the region
of interest from pPAV6. For the insertion mutants into the KpnI
site, the forward and reverse primers both contained a KpnI site.
These fragments were generated by using PCR, gel purified, and
ligated into pPAV6 that was digested with the same enzymes.
In Vitro Transcription. Uncapped and capped BYDV-derived
RNAs were transcribed by using the Megascript and mMessage
or its derivatives cleaved with SmaI (3? end of BYDV) or other
indicated restriction enzymes. Dual luciferase vector transcripts
were synthesized in the same manner but from plasmid cleaved
with NheI, which retained the A60tail. PstI-linearized DNA was
filled in with Klenow polymerase fragment before transcription.
In Vitro Translation. In vitro translation was performed in WGE
(Promega) as described previously (26). Bands were quantitated
by using a STORM PhosphorImager and IMAGEQUANT software
(Molecular Dynamics). To correct for the number of methioni-
nes in each product, the frameshift efficiency for the BYDV
constructs was calculated as [(99-kDa counts/28 Met)?(99-kDa
counts/28 Met ? 30-kDa counts/10 Met)] ? 100, and the dual
luciferase constructs were [(100-kDa counts/22 Met)?(100-kDa
counts/22 Met ? 40-kDa counts/9 Met)] ? 100.
Translation and Replication in Protoplasts. For luciferase assays, oat
protoplasts were prepared from suspension cells, electroporated
with 15 ?g of RNA transcripts, and harvested after 4 to 6 h (25,
26). Cells were lysed in 100 ?l of passive lysis buffer by shaking
for 15 min at room temperature and spun to remove debris.
Ten-microliter aliquots of supernatant were assayed by using the
Stop and Glo dual luciferase kit (Promega). All mutants were
tested in triplicate in the wild-type, in-frame, and out-of-frame
vectors. The percent frameshifting was calculated by determin-
number by the ratio for the positive control (the same mutation
cloned into the dual luciferase vector with the in-frame,
GGGUUUCU shifty site). The results were compared with the
negative control (dual luciferase vector with the nonshifting
CGGCUUC sequence in the shifty site), which was around 20%
of the wild-type frameshift signal. The percent frameshifting for
the mutants was then reported as that compared with the
wild-type control run on the same day. For RNA replication
assays, protoplasts were electroporated with BYDV transcripts
as above. After 24 h, total RNA was extracted and analyzed by
Northern blot hybridization (26).
Minimal Frameshift Enhancer Element Established in Vitro. Previ-
ously, we showed that deletions within bases 5,050–5,283 re-
duced or abolished frameshifting in vitro, whereas individual
genome organization. Frameshift elements are shown as gray boxes; num-
bering indicates base positions (nt) in BYDV genome. (B) Wheat germ trans-
lation products of viral transcripts. PAGE and quantification of frameshifting
are described in Materials and Methods. Frameshift efficiencies (% fs) are
shown under each lane. Translation of capped transcripts from wild-type
SmaI-linearized pPAV6 (lane 1), and mutant containing only bases 5,050–
5,283 downstream of the BamHI4837site (lane 2). Lanes 4–6, translation of
uncapped transcripts from SmaI or PstI-cut pPAV6 or from PstI-cut
pPAV6K5050–5283 that contains bases 5,050–5,283 in the KpnI4154site. Mo-
and Brome mosaic virus (BMV) RNA translation products (lane 3) are marked.
Mapping of long-distance frameshift element in vitro. (A) BYDV
www.pnas.org?cgi?doi?10.1073?pnas.162223099Barry and Miller
deletions upstream or downstream did not (26). Here, we
determine whether bases 5,050–5,283 are sufficient to stimulate
frameshifting at the level observed with full-length RNA and
whether the positioning of this element influences the frame-
shifting efficiency. To test this, the sequences from the
BamHI4837site to nt 5050 and from nt 5283 to the 3? end were
deleted (Fig. 1B, PAV6B5050–5283). This construct lacks the 3?
TE necessary for cap-independent translation, so it and the
wild-type control RNA (PAV6) were capped for efficient trans-
lation in WGE. Presence of the 5? cap reduced wild-type
frameshift efficiency by 50% (Fig. 1B, compare lanes 1 and 4),
as observed previously (26). PAV6B5050–5283 RNA induced
about one-third as much frameshifting as wild-type RNA (Fig.
1B, lanes 1 and 2). Because BYDV sequences deleted from this
construct were shown separately to be unnecessary for frame-
shifting (26), these results suggest that the location of the
frameshift element at the very 3? end reduces its activity.
To determine whether it was simply proximity to the 3? end
that reduced frameshifting, the 5,050–5,283 sequence was in-
serted in the unique KpnI4154site in the expendable ORF 5 of the
full-length BYDV transcript (Fig. 1B, PAV6K5050–5283). The
transcript was truncated at the PstI5009site (nt 5,009) leaving 850
nt of viral sequence (unnecessary for frameshifting; ref. 26)
downstream of the ectopic 5,050–5,283 insertion in the KpnI4154
site. This truncated RNA frameshifted about as efficiently as
wild type (Fig. 1B, lane 6). As a control, PstI truncation was
shown to abolish frameshifting in the wild-type PAV6 RNA (Fig.
1B, lane 5). Therefore, the region between 5,050–5,283 contains
the complete long-distance frameshift element (LDFE) neces-
sary for frameshifting in vitro; however, it is less effective when
located at the very 3? end.
for Frameshifting in Vivo. For high resolution mapping of the
frameshift signals in vivo and in vitro, we used a dual luciferase
reporter that allows precise frameshift measurement. The dual
luciferase reporter contains a Renilla luciferase (rLUC) gene in
the zero frame, followed by a firefly luciferase (fLUC) ORF in
the ?1 frame, with the candidate frameshift sequence inserted
between two reporters (30). The fLUC?rLUC ratio reveals the
frameshift efficiency (Fig. 2A). We inserted the shifty site, the
proposed adjacent downstream stem loop (ADSL), and substan-
tial adjacent viral sequence upstream of the shifty site between
the rLUC and fLUC ORFs (nt 1,044–1,250). Two additional
regions of BYDV sequence, the 5? UTR (nt 1–152) and the 3?
UTR (nt 4,908–5,677), were included so that the resulting
transcript, DL-PAV206, had all of the UTR sequences necessary
for cap- and poly(A)-independent translation (25). The missing
viral RNA, bases 152–1,046 and 1,648–4,919, do not play a role
in translation initiation or frameshifting in vitro (26, 32).
In oat protoplasts, DL-PAV206 RNA frameshifted with 1.1%
(Fig. 2A). As expected, deletion of the ADSL reduced frame-
shifting to near background levels (Fig. 2A, DL-PAVSL). Fol-
lowing translation in WGE, the rLUC-fLUC frameshift product
of DL-PAV206 RNA was clearly visible compared with the
SHSIL transcript with the disrupted shifty site (Fig. 2B, lanes 1
and 3). Deletions upstream of the shifty site between nt 1,044–
1,139 reduced frameshifting by about half in vivo (Fig. 2A,
DL-PAV111, 129, and 167), but not in vitro (data not shown).
Although this result is not predicted from other known frame-
shift signals, previous experiments with BYDV genome dele-
tions indicated that upstream sequence might be important for
frameshifting in vitro (32). Thus, the dual luciferase vector
containing BYDV nt 1,044–1,250 between the rLUC and fLUC
ORFs responds to mutations as expected and is a cogent model
for viral RNA frameshifting.
A series of deletion mutants within the region spanning nt
5,016–5,426 was constructed in the dual luciferase vector to
more precisely map the LDFE in vivo (Fig. 3). Deletion of nt
5,047–5,099 reduced frameshifting to background levels (about
0.2% frameshifting or 20% of that obtained with the full-length
UTR). Deletions in nt 5,168–5,279 gave 30–50% of wild-type
frameshifting. The sequence between nt 5,091–5,168 is not
necessary for frameshifting. Thus, the essential core and en-
hancer sequences are two separate elements. Furthermore, in
vivo, additional sequence was required beyond what is necessary
for frameshift enhancer activity in vitro. Sequence between 5,319
and 5,355 was necessary for full frameshifting in vivo (Fig. 3), but
no sequence downstream of nt 5,283 was necessary in vitro (26).
Base Pairing Between the Adjacent Bulged Stem Loop and the Long-
Distance Frameshift Element Is Essential for Frameshifting. We next
investigated how the ADSL and the distant LDFE both partic-
ipate in frameshifting. Within the core LDFE, nucleotides
predicted by MFOLD (33) to form a stem-loop structure. Six
contiguous bases (underlined) in loop5063AUCUGUG5069, can
potentially base pair to six conserved bases in the ADSL of the
frameshift site1229CACAGA1234(Fig. 4A). Five of these ADSL
bases are in a predicted bulge. Formation of six base pairs
predicted BYDV RNA secondary structure around the shifty site inserted
between the two LUC ORFs. The BYDV 3? UTR is inserted after fLUC. BYDV
sequences are represented by black boxes. Frameshift rates (?SD) in oat
protoplasts (in vivo) were calculated as described in Materials and Methods.
value for that individual assay. All constructs were tested in triplicate at least
twice except for DL-PAV-SL, which was tested once. (B) In vitro translation
rLUC (40 kDa) and rLUC-fLUC (100 kDa) products are marked. DL-PSHSIL206
has a disrupted shifty site (see Materials and Methods). Both LUC ORFs are
fused in the same frame in DL-PM4 206.
Barry and Miller PNAS ?
August 20, 2002 ?
vol. 99 ?
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of one adjacent base pair (U1172:A1234) in the ADSL. The
potential for this long-distance base pairing is conserved in all
BYDV isolates and in the only other sequenced BYDV-like
virus, Soybean dwarf virus (SbDV). The predicted LDFE of
SbDV has the potential to form seven base pairs with the bulge
in the ADSL, but the LDFE ‘‘stem’’ is very weak (Fig. 4A,
pairing by monitoring translation of transcripts with altered
sequences within this region. The potential base pairing was
disrupted and restored by changing the sequence of one or both
of the predicted strands of the long-distance interaction. Mu-
tating all six bases to the complementary sequence (DL-BL1230
or DL-SL5066), or altering just the central two bases (DL-
PT1230 or DL-PT5066) in either strand, dramatically reduced
frameshifting in vivo and in vitro (Fig. 4B). When the mutations
in each region were combined in the double mutants to restore
base pairing, frameshifting increased substantially. Thus, the
long-distance base pairing, and not the primary sequence, is the
important component for frameshift stimulation by the LDFE
stem loop and ADSL bulge.
Base Pairing Between the Adjacent Downstream Stem Loop and the
Long-Distance Frameshift Element Is Essential for Viral RNA Replica-
tion. To test the role of the long-distance base pairing in the
actual context of the replicating virus, we assayed the ability of
full-length infectious BYDV RNA with altered frameshift ele-
ments to replicate in oat protoplasts. The frameshift is essential
for BYDV replication because frameshifting is necessary for
translation of the viral RdRp (26, 32). One constraint for
mutating the ADSL RNA sequence is that the resulting alter-
ation in the amino acid sequence of the RdRp could reduce its
activity, independent of frameshift efficiency (32). To minimize
this possibility, replication was tested only for the ADSL con-
structs with two-base mutations (PAV6 PT1230, PAV6 PT1230?
PT5066). The PT1230 mutation introduces a relatively conser-
vative change of serine to threonine in the RdRp, whereas the
PT5066 mutation is in the UTR. These mutations had the same
effects on frameshifting of full-length viral genomic RNA as on
the reporter constructs in vitro (Fig. 4C). In protoplasts, the
PAV6-derived transcripts with either of the two-base mutations
did not replicate, as revealed by Northern blot analysis of viral
RNA accumulation at 24 hpi (Fig. 4D, PAV PT1230 and PAV
PT5066). In contrast, the double mutant, which restores the
base-pairing interaction, replicated at wild-type levels (Fig. 4D,
PAV PT1230?PT5066). These results demonstrate that the
long-distance base pairing is required in the natural viral RNA
are graphed as the % of the frameshift efficiency (fs) of DL-PAV206 (fs ?
1.10%; Fig. 2A), which contains the full-length 3? UTR (nt 4,809–5,677). Each
sample was tested in triplicate two independent times; error bars represent
restore the long-distance base pairing. (A) Predicted secondary structures
(MFOLD) of BYDV and the related SbDV RNAs showing the base-pairing
interaction (boxed in BYDV structure) of the long-distance frameshift
element (LDFE) with the bulge in the adjacent downstream stem loop
(ADSL bulge). (B) Frameshift efficiencies of dual luciferase constructs with
mutations in ADSL bulge and?or LDFE that disrupt and restore potential
base pairing. Frameshift efficiencies are averages from three independent
experiments. The nucleotide sequence for the two regions for each mutant
is shown with altered bases in bold. (C) PAGE of wheat germ translation
products of BYDV dual luciferase (100-kDa frameshift product) and of
full-length viral (PAV6) constructs containing the same sets of two-base
from oat protoplasts inoculated with the same wild-type and mutant PAV6
transcripts used in C. BYDV genomic (gRNA) and subgenomic RNAs (sgRNA)
produced during virus replication are marked. (Lower) Ethidium bromide
staining of gel used for the above blot as a control for gel loading. This
experiment was repeated three times with the same results.
Frameshifting and replication of BYDV mutants that destroy and
www.pnas.org?cgi?doi?10.1073?pnas.162223099 Barry and Miller
replication process, as predicted by its essential role for
The Measured Frameshift Efficiency of BYDV Is Low but Significant.
The dual luciferase vector allows accurate measurement of very
small changes in frameshifting efficiency, well below 1% in plant
cells. Low but significant levels were also detectable in vitro with
radiolabeled translation products (Figs. 2B and 4). Western blots
indicated ratios of postshift to preshift (P1–2:P1) proteins in
infected cells of at least 6% (26), suggesting a higher frameshift
efficiency in a natural infection. Frameshifting may be reduced
in the dual reporter system because it may lack important viral
sequence needed only in vivo. Indeed, we found that more
sequence (nt 1,044–1,138 and 5,320–5,355) had a positive effect
in vivo than in vitro (Figs. 2A and 3). This resembles cap-
independent translation, which also requires more sequence in
the 3? UTR in vivo than in vitro (31), perhaps because of the
presence of host mRNAs providing more competition for the
translation machinery. The lower frameshifting by the dual
reporter system may be because of parameters that are not
controlled directly by frameshift elements, such as initiation rate
(11, 26, 34), or the sequence context of the stimulatory elements
base pairing is essential for ?1 ribosomal frameshifting in all
assays and, most importantly, in the context of replicating viral
RNA. The latter was demonstrated by the complete ablation of
BYDV replication by base changes in either the ADSL or the
LDFE, and the complete restoration of replication in the double
compensatory mutant (Fig. 4D).
The frameshift enhancement by the sequence upstream of the
shifty site (nt 1,044–1,139) in the dual luciferase reporter system
(Fig. 2A) was unexpected. However, the eight bases immediately
upstream of the HIV-1 and HTLV-2 shifty sites are known to
affect frameshifting (16). The stem loop predicted by MFOLD
(33) immediately upstream of the shifty site is conserved in all
members of the Luteovirus and Dianthovirus genera. These
upstream stem loop(s) may slow the ribosome in advance of the
shifty site to enhance frameshifting. Alternatively, they may
serve as ‘‘insulators’’ to prevent improper folding of the shifty
site or ADSL with upstream sequences.
Interestingly, a bulged stem loop very similar to the ADSL of
BYDV RNA stimulates Red clover necrotic mosaic dianthovirus
(RCNMV) RNA frameshifting, in the absence of its viral 3?
UTR, in rabbit reticulocyte lysates (8) and in dual luciferase
reporter transcripts in WGE (J.K.B., unpublished results). How-
ever, whether the RCNMV 3? UTR further stimulates frame-
was thought to be sufficient to stimulate frameshifting (35), but
for full frameshifting, the ADSL must interact with nearby
downstream sequence to form a novel pseudoknot with a base
triplex in the stem (9). Potential for long-distance base pairing
between a 3? UTR element and the bulged stem loop adjacent
to the frameshift site is conserved in SbDV (Fig. 4A) and in
genus Dianthovirus, including RCNMV (not shown). The pre-
dicted base pairing of the SbDV putative LDFE to the ADSL
bulge is long (7 bp) and GC-rich, but the predicted distant
‘‘stem’’ in SbDV is so weak (G:U-rich) that it may not exist (Fig.
4A). Nevertheless, this phylogenetic conservation supports a
functional role for the long-distance base pairing.
The Long-Distance Loop:Bulge Base Pairing Is a Previously Uncharac-
terized Frameshift Structure. Gene 10 of bacteriophage T7 pro-
vides another example of ?1 frameshifting stimulated by an
element beyond the immediate vicinity of the frameshift site. It
requires a sequence located 200 bases downstream of the shifty
site that is predicted to form a stem loop (36). However, it is the
sequence in this region and not predicted secondary structure
that stimulates frameshifting. Perhaps the structures most sim-
ilar to that of BYDV are found in Rous sarcoma virus (37) and
gill-associated virus (38) RNAs. As in BYDV RNA, these
structures consist of a long, bulged ADSL and a downstream
region base-paired to a bulge in the ADSL. Unlike BYDV, the
downstream element is not a stem loop; it is only 12–42 nt
downstream of the ADSL, and the bulge to which its base pairs
is on the 5? rather than the 3? side of the ADSL. A example of
a different kind of recoding that is facilitated by a sequence in
the 3? UTR is the incorporation of the amino acid selenocysteine
at UGA codons (39). However, that interaction uses specialized
translation elongation factors (39) rather than long-distance
base pairing. Thus, the bulge-loop:stem-loop interaction in
BYDV RNA is a different class of long-distance recoding
How RNA structures stimulate ribosomes to change frame is
unknown, but one of their key roles in frameshifting is to pause
the ribosome over the shifty site (11, 15). The properties that
determine whether a structure stimulates frameshifting are
unclear. A comparison of the high-resolution structures deter-
mined for the MMTV (40), BWYV (41), and other frameshift
pseudoknots reveals no tell-tale structural features (4). It has
been proposed that frameshift efficiency is determined by the
ability of the pseudoknot to resist the ribosomal helicase activity
ary structural elements with key regions in color (not to scale). Black boxes
indicate ORFs 1 and 2. For simplicity, other ORFs, nascent proteins, and (?)
strand RNA are not shown. (A) Base pairing between the 3? TE and 5? UTR
(magenta) (25) and between the LDFE and ADSL (gold) allow ribosomes (gray
ovals) to translate ORF 1 and ORF 2. (B) As the viral RdRp molecules (blue
spheres) accumulate, they initiate (?) strand synthesis at the 3?-terminal
structure (46). They proceed upstream along the template and melt out the
2 of ribosomes, briefly allowing translation of ORF1 only. (C) Next, the RdRp
reaches the 3? TE and disrupts the 3?TE:5? UTR base pairing, preventing
translation initiation. This clears ORF1 and the entire RNA of ribosomes,
allowing the RdRps to continue to the 5? end. Subsequent rounds of replica-
tion would cause (?) strand RNA to accumulate in excess of RdRp molecules,
returning the process to A as shown.
RNA traffic signal hypothesis for regulation of BYDV translation and
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August 20, 2002 ?
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during translation elongation (4, 9, 14). Yusupova et al. (42) Download full-text
propose that three ribosomal proteins surrounding the mRNA
entry site into the 80S complex bind helical regions on the
mRNA and separate the strands as the mRNA enters the
ribosome. Therefore, the authors speculated that frameshift-
stimulatory structures preclude efficient interactions with these
helix-unwinding proteins. The bulge-loop:stem-loop helix
formed by the long-distance interaction in BYDV RNA may
coaxially stack with (one of) the flanking helices in the ADSL,
stabilizing the long-distance base pairing, and forming a stable,
kinked, helical structure that proves awkward for the ribosome
to unwind. This could facilitate frameshifting by the above
A Potential Translation–Replication Switch.The location of both the
cap-independent translation initiation element and the frame-
shift element far downstream of the translated genes provides
advantages for the virus. Owing to their location in the UTR,
they are unfettered by protein coding constraints. Second, this
location would prevent unproductive translation of 3? truncated
mRNA that is either partially degraded or not fully synthesized.
Most interestingly, a requirement for base pairing of 3? UTR
elements to upstream sequences for translation (25) may provide
a novel mechanism to prevent collisions between ribosomes and
the replicase. Translating ribosomes block replicase molecules
moving in the opposite direction on the same template RNA (22,
43). Poliovirus avoids this event as its replicase first binds the
viral 5? UTR to shut off translation and is then delivered to the
3? end via protein–protein interactions to initiate (?) strand
synthesis (20). According to our model (Fig. 5), early in infection
newly translated replicase binds the 3? end of viral RNA and
proceeds through the 3? UTR toward the 5? end as it synthesizes
(?) strand. Upon reaching the LDFE and the 3? TE, replicase
disrupts both sets of long-distance base pairing, thus blocking
frameshifting and translation initiation. These events would
clear ORF 2 and then ORF 1 of ribosomes, allowing replicase to
complete full-length (?) strand synthesis from a ribosome-free
(?) strand. As replicase subsequently produces (?) strand
genomic RNA copies from the (?) strand template, eventually
(?) strands would outnumber replicase molecules and be free to
form the long-distance base-pairing interactions necessary for
translation initiation and frameshifting, and the cycle would
repeat. This model provides an elegant means to allow simul-
taneous replication and translation while avoiding nonproduc-
tive collisions between replicase and ribosome. This model is
consistent with our unexplained observation that capped BYDV
transcripts are far less infectious than uncapped transcripts (44).
Presence of a 5? cap would favor continuous translation, pre-
ventng the replicase from copying ribosome-laden viral RNA.
This mechanism may serve instead of, or in addition to, subcel-
lular vesicles that may separate the sites of translation and
replication of some viruses, such as BMV (45). The fact that
frameshifting would be disrupted slightly before initiation by the
replicase hints that expression of the RdRp (frameshift product
of ORFs 1 ? 2) may be regulated differently from the product
of ORF 1 alone.
We thank Gloria Culver and Ian Brierley for advice on the manuscript
and Guido Grentzmann and John Atkins for the dual luciferase reporter
plasmid. This research was funded by National Institutes of Health
Fellowship 1 F32 AI10445-01 (to J.K.B.) and by National Science
Foundation Grant MCB-9974590 and U.S. Department of Agriculture?
National Research Initiative (2001-35319-10011) (to W.A.M.). This
paper is no. J-19792 of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics
Experiment Station, Project 6542.
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www.pnas.org?cgi?doi?10.1073?pnas.162223099Barry and Miller