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J Mol Biol. 2001 Jun 22;309(5):1029-48.

Analysis of the roles of tRNA structure, ribosomal protein L9, and the bacteriophage T4 gene 60 bypassing signals during ribosome slippage on mRNA.

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Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah, 2030 E 15N, RM 7410, Salt Lake City, UT, 84112-5330, USA.


A 50-nucleotide coding gap divides bacteriophage T4 gene 60 into two open reading frames. In response to cis-acting stimulatory signals encrypted in the mRNA, the anticodon of the ribosome-bound peptidyl tRNA dissociates from a GGA codon at the end of the first open reading frame and pairs with a GGA codon 47 nucleotides downstream just before the second open reading frame. Mutations affecting ribosomal protein L9 or tRNA(Gly)(2), the tRNA that decodes GGA, alter the efficiency of bypassing. To understand the mechanism of ribosome slippage, this work analyzes the influence of these bypassing signals and mutant translational components on -1 frameshifting at G GGA and hopping over a stop codon immediately flanked by two GGA glycine codons (stop-hopping). Mutant variants of tRNA(Gly)(2) that impair bypassing mediate stop-hopping with unexpected landing specificities, suggesting that these variants are defective in ribosomal P-site codon-anticodon pairing. In a direct competition between -1 frameshifting and stop-hopping, the absence of L9 promotes stop-hopping at the expense of -1 frameshifting without substantially impairing the ability of mutant tRNA(Gly)(2) variants to re-pair with the mRNA by sub-optimal pairing. These observations suggest that L9 defects may stimulate ribosome slippage by enhancing mRNA movement through the ribosome rather than by inducing an extended pause in translation or by destabilizing P-site pairing. Two of the bypassing signals, a cis-acting nascent peptide encoded by the first open reading frame and a stemloop signal located in the 5' portion of the coding gap, stimulate peptidyl-tRNA slippage independently of the rest of the gene 60 context. Evidence is presented suggesting that the nascent peptide signal may stimulate bypassing by destabilizing P-site pairing.

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