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EMBO J. 2001 Dec 3;20(23):6899-908.

Cell-specific proteins regulate viral RNA translation and virus-induced disease.

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Department of Neurology, University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Translation initiation of the picornavirus genome is regulated by an internal ribosome entry site (IRES). The IRES of a neurovirulent picornavirus, the GDVII strain of Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus, requires polypyrimidine tract-binding protein (PTB) for its function. Although neural cells are deficient in PTB, they express a neural-specific homologue of PTB (nPTB). We now show that nPTB and PTB bind similarly to multiple sites in the GDVII IRES, rendering it competent for efficient translation initiation. Mutation of a PTB or nPTB site results in a more prominent decrease in nPTB than PTB binding, a decrease in activity of nPTB compared with PTB in promoting translation initiation, and attenuation of the neurovirulence of the virus without a marked effect on virus growth in non-neural cells. The addition of a second-site mutation in the mutant IRES generates a new PTB (nPTB) binding site, and restores nPTB binding, translation initiation and neurovirulence. We conclude that the tissue-specific expression and differential RNA-binding properties of PTB and nPTB are important determinants of cell-specific translational control and viral neurovirulence.

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