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EMBO J. 1992 Oct;11(10):3747-57.

Role of the open reading frames of Rous sarcoma virus leader RNA in translation and genome packaging.

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Department of Molecular Biology, University of Geneva, Switzerland.


The Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) RNA leader sequence carries three open reading frames (uORFs) upstream of the AUG initiator of the gag gene. We studied, in vivo, the role of these uORFs by changing two or three nucleotides of the three AUGs or by deleting the first uORF. Our results show that (i) unlike most previously characterized uORFs, which decrease translation, the first uORF (AUG1) of RSV acts as an enhancer of translation, since absence of the first AUG decreased translation; AUG3 also modulates translation, probably by interfering with scanning ribosomes as described for other upstream ORFs, and mutation of AUG2 had no effect on translation. (ii) Mutation of each of the upstream AUGs lowered the infectivity of progeny virions. (iii) Unexpectedly, mutation of AUG1 and/or AUG3 dramatically reduced RNA packaging by 50-to 100-fold, unlike mutation of AUG2 which did not alter RNA packaging efficiency. Additional mutants in the vicinity of uORF1 and uORF3 were constructed in order to elucidate the mechanism by which uORFs affect RNA packaging: a translation model requiring uORFs 1 and 3, and involving ribosome pausing at AUG 3 is discussed.

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