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Virus Res. 2009 Feb;139(2):217-29. doi: 10.1016/j.virusres.2008.06.010. Epub 2008 Jul 30.

Role of tRNA-like structures in controlling plant virus replication.

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Department of Microbiology and Center for Genome Research & Bioinformatics, 220 Nash Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


Transfer RNA-like structures (TLSs) that are sophisticated functional mimics of tRNAs are found at the 3'-termini of the genomes of a number of plant positive strand RNA viruses. Three natural aminoacylation identities are represented: valine, histidine, and tyrosine. Paralleling this variety in structure, the roles of TLSs vary widely between different viruses. For Turnip yellow mosaic virus, the TLS must be capable of valylation in order to support infectivity, major roles being the provision of translational enhancement and down-regulation of minus strand initiation. In contrast, valylation of the Peanut clump virus TLS is not essential. An intermediate situation seems to exist for Brome mosaic virus, whose RNAs 1 and 2, but not RNA 3, need to be capable of tyrosylation to support infectivity. Other known roles for certain TLSs include: (i) the recruitment of host CCA nucleotidyltransferase as a telomerase to maintain intact 3' CCA termini, (ii) involvement in the encapsidation of viral RNAs, and (iii) presentation of minus strand promoter elements for replicase recognition. In the latter role, the promoter elements reside within the TLS but are not functionally dependent on tRNA mimicry. The phylogenetic distribution of TLSs indicates that their evolutionary history includes frequent horizontal exchange, as has been observed for protein-coding regions of plant positive strand RNA viruses.

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