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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2000 Jun;64(2):239-80.

Translational control of viral gene expression in eukaryotes.

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  • 1University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA. mgale@mednet.swmed.edu


As obligate intracellular parasites, viruses rely exclusively on the translational machinery of the host cell for the synthesis of viral proteins. This relationship has imposed numerous challenges on both the infecting virus and the host cell. Importantly, viruses must compete with the endogenous transcripts of the host cell for the translation of viral mRNA. Eukaryotic viruses have thus evolved diverse mechanisms to ensure translational efficiency of viral mRNA above and beyond that of cellular mRNA. Mechanisms that facilitate the efficient and selective translation of viral mRNA may be inherent in the structure of the viral nucleic acid itself and can involve the recruitment and/or modification of specific host factors. These processes serve to redirect the translation apparatus to favor viral transcripts, and they often come at the expense of the host cell. Accordingly, eukaryotic cells have developed antiviral countermeasures to target the translational machinery and disrupt protein synthesis during the course of virus infection. Not to be outdone, many viruses have answered these countermeasures with their own mechanisms to disrupt cellular antiviral pathways, thereby ensuring the uncompromised translation of virion proteins. Here we review the varied and complex translational programs employed by eukaryotic viruses. We discuss how these translational strategies have been incorporated into the virus life cycle and examine how such programming contributes to the pathogenesis of the host cell.

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