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Virus Res. 2006 Jul;119(1):16-28. Epub 2005 Nov 22.

Divergent IRES elements in invertebrates.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Viruses have evolved unique strategies and mechanisms to recruit ribosomes to ensure continued translation of their viral RNA during infection. The Dicistroviridae family of invertebrate viruses contains an unusual internal ribosome entry site (IRES), which can directly recruit ribosomes in the absence of initiation factors. Moreover, this IRES initiates translation at a non-AUG codon independent of an initiator Met-tRNA. Recent studies have shown that the IRES mimicks a tRNA to interact with and manipulate the ribosome. The presence of this divergent IRES likely allows translation of the dicistroviral RNA during infection when host translation is compromised. This review will explore the unique properties of this unprecedented mechanism of gene expression. Specific topics will examine structural components of the IRES, the mechanism of initiating translation at non-AUG codons and the regulation of this IRES in vivo. The existence of this mechanism suggests that the repertoire of open reading frames in our genome may be greater than anticipated.

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