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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41382. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041382. Epub 2012 Jul 18.

Exploring IRES region accessibility by interference of foot-and-mouth disease virus infectivity.

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Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas-Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.


Translation initiation of picornavirus RNA is driven by an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) element located upstream of the initiator codon. RNA structure organization as well as RNA-protein interaction plays a fundamental role in internal initiation. IRES activity has been mainly analyzed in the context of reporter genes, lacking regions of the viral genome potentially affecting translation efficiency. With the aim to understand the vulnerability of the IRES and translation start region to small molecules in the context of the viral genome, we designed a set of customized RNase-resistant 2'O-methyl antisense oligoribonucleotides (2'OMe AONs) based on RNA structure data. These AONs were then used to monitor their capacity to interfere viral RNA translation, and thus, to inhibit virus yield. Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) RNA translation can be initiated at two in-frame AUG codons. We show here that a 2'OMe AON complementary to AUG2 inhibited viral multiplication more efficiently than the one that targeted AUG1. Furthermore, the response of the viral RNA to AONs targeting the IRES region denoted important differences between tissue culture cells and cell-free systems, reinforcing the need to analyze viral RNA response in living cells. Importantly, we have identified four specific motifs within the IRES element that are targets for viral inhibitors both in tissue culture cells and in cell-free systems. The identified targets define accessible regions to small molecules, which disturb either the RNA structural organization or the RNA-protein interactions needed to initiate translation in FMDV RNA.

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