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EMBO J. 2008 Dec 3;27(23):3129-39. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2008.228. Epub 2008 Oct 30.

A protein that replaces the entire cellular eIF4F complex.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and the Center for Infectious Diseases & Immunity, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.


The eIF4F cap-binding complex mediates the initiation of cellular mRNA translation. eIF4F is composed of eIF4E, which binds to the mRNA cap, eIF4G, which indirectly links the mRNA cap with the 43S pre-initiation complex, and eIF4A, which is a helicase necessary for initiation. Viral nucleocapsid proteins (N) function in both genome replication and RNA encapsidation. Surprisingly, we find that hantavirus N has multiple intrinsic activities that mimic and substitute for each of the three peptides of the cap-binding complex thereby enhancing the translation of viral mRNA. N binds with high affinity to the mRNA cap replacing eIF4E. N binds directly to the 43S pre-initiation complex facilitating loading of ribosomes onto capped mRNA functionally replacing eIF4G. Finally, N obviates the requirement for the helicase, eIF4A. The expression of a multifaceted viral protein that functionally supplants the cellular cap-binding complex is a unique strategy for viral mRNA translation initiation. The ability of N to directly mediate translation initiation would ensure the efficient translation of viral mRNA.

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