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Virology. 2004 Mar 30;321(1):36-46.

The tRNA-like structure of Turnip yellow mosaic virus RNA is a 3'-translational enhancer.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-3804, USA.


Many positive stand RNA viral genomes lack the poly(A) tail that is characteristic of cellular mRNAs and that promotes translation in cis. The 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) of such genomes are expected to provide similar translation-enhancing properties as a poly(A) tail, yet the great variety of 3' sequences suggests that this is accomplished in a range of ways. We have identified a translational enhancer present in the 3' UTR of Turnip yellow mosaic virus (TYMV) RNA using luciferase reporter RNAs with generic 5' sequences transfected into plant cells. The 3' terminal 109 nucleotides comprising the tRNA-like structure (TLS) and an upstream pseudoknot (UPSK) act in synergy with a 5'-cap to enhance translation, with a minor contribution in stabilizing the RNA. Maximum enhancement requires that the RNA be capable of aminoacylation, but either the native valine or engineered methionine is acceptable. Mutations that decrease the affinity for translation elongation factor eEF1A (but also diminish aminoacylation efficiency) strongly decrease translational enhancement, suggesting that eEF1A is mechanistically involved. The UPSK seems to act as an important, though nonspecific, spacer element ensuring proper presentation of a functional TLS. Our studies have uncovered a novel type of translational enhancer and a new role for a plant viral TLS.

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