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Mol Cell Biol. 1987 Oct; 7(10): 3438–3445.
PMCID: PMC367994

Effects of intercistronic length on the efficiency of reinitiation by eucaryotic ribosomes.


Simian virus 40-based plasmids that direct the synthesis of preproinsulin during short-term transfection of COS cells have been used to probe the mechanism of reinitiation by eucaryotic ribosomes. Earlier studies from several laboratories had established that the ability of ribosomes to reinitiate translation at an internal AUG codon depends on having a terminator codon in frame with the preceding AUG triplet and upstream from the intended restart site. In the present studies, the position of the upstream terminator codon relative to the preproinsulin restart site has been systematically varied. The efficiency of reinitiation progressively improved as the intercistronic sequence was lengthened. When the upstream "minicistron" terminated 79 nucleotides before the preproinsulin start site, the synthesis of proinsulin was as efficient as if there were no upstream AUG codons. A mechanism is postulated that might account for this result, which is somewhat surprising inasmuch as bacterial ribosomes reinitiate less efficiently as the intercistronic gap is widened.

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