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Nucleic Acids Res. 1999 Dec 15;27(24):4783-91.

Expression of the human immunodeficiency virus frameshift signal in a bacterial cell-free system: influence of an interaction between the ribosome and a stem-loop structure downstream from the slippery site.

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  • 1Département de Biochimie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec H3T 1J4, Canada.


A-1 frameshift event is required for expression of the pol gene when ribosomes translate the mRNA of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1). In this study, we inserted the frameshift region of HIV-1 (a slippery heptanucleotide motif followed by a stem-loop) in a reporter gene coding for firefly luciferase. The ability of the corresponding mRNA, generated by in vitro transcription, to be translated in an Escherichia coli cell-free extract is the first demonstration that the HIV-1 frameshift can be reproduced in a bacterial cell-free extract, providing a powerful approach for analysis of the frameshift mechanism. The responses of the frameshift signal to chloramphenicol, an inhibitor of peptide bond formation, and spectinomycin, an inhibitor of translocation, suggest that the frameshift complies with the same rules found in eukaryotic translation systems. Furthermore, when translation was performed in the presence of streptomycin and neamine, two error-inducing antibiotics, or with hyperaccurate ribosomes mutated in S12, the frameshift efficiency was increased or decreased, respectively, but only in the presence of the stem-loop, suggesting that the stem-loop can influence the frameshift through a functional interaction with the ribosomes.

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