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Nucleic Acids Res. 1992 Sep 11;20(17):4631-8.

Identification of the motifs within the tobacco mosaic virus 5'-leader responsible for enhancing translation.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Riverside 92521-0129.


The leader (called omega) of tobacco mosaic virus RNA enhances translation in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Although little secondary structure is predicted to exist within omega, the primary sequence of the 68 base leader is highly organized. Three copies of an eight base direct repeat and a (CAA)n region represent the two motifs found in the leaders of many TMV strains, and together these comprise 72% of omega. In previous deletion studies, no mutants exhibited loss-of-function, suggesting that functional redundancy exists within omega. We report here that a more comprehensive deletion analysis identified the motifs involved in translational enhancement. In a separate approach, oligonucleotides containing the sequence of each motif were used to construct leaders that varied in the number and configuration of the motifs. beta-Glucuronidase mRNA constructs containing these mutant leaders were synthesized in vitro and their translational efficiency measured in vivo following mRNA delivery to carrot protoplasts via electroporation. A combination of one copy of the 8 base direct repeat and a 25 base (CAA)n region was identified as the core regulatory element, although the (CAA)n motif is more critical. Two copies of the (CAA)n region are sufficient to confer a high level of enhancement and a leader composed of multiple copies of the direct repeat is moderately enhancing. Thus, these two motifs are functionally redundant.

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