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J Virol. 2015 Dec;89(24):12427-40. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02099-15. Epub 2015 Sep 30.

A Unique 5' Translation Element Discovered in Triticum Mosaic Virus.

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Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of Texas-Austin, Austin, Texas, USA.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, and Department of Plant Pathology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA


Several plant viruses encode elements at the 5' end of their RNAs, which, unlike most cellular mRNAs, can initiate translation in the absence of a 5' m7GpppG cap. Here, we describe an exceptionally long (739-nucleotide [nt]) leader sequence in triticum mosaic virus (TriMV), a recently emerged wheat pathogen that belongs to the Potyviridae family of positive-strand RNA viruses. We demonstrate that the TriMV 5' leader drives strong cap-independent translation in both wheat germ extract and oat protoplasts through a novel, noncanonical translation mechanism. Translation preferentially initiates at the 13th start codon within the leader sequence independently of eIF4E but involves eIF4G. We truncated the 5' leader to a 300-nucleotide sequence that drives cap-independent translation from the 5' end. We show that within this sequence, translation activity relies on a stem-loop structure identified at nucleotide positions 469 to 490. The disruption of the stem significantly impairs the function of the 5' untranslated region (UTR) in driving translation and competing against a capped RNA. Additionally, the TriMV 5' UTR can direct translation from an internal position of a bicistronic mRNA, and unlike cap-driven translation, it is unimpaired when the 5' end is blocked by a strong hairpin in a monocistronic reporter. However, the disruption of the identified stem structure eliminates such a translational advantage. Our results reveal a potent and uniquely controlled translation enhancer that may provide new insights into mechanisms of plant virus translational regulation.


Many members of the Potyviridae family rely on their 5' end for translation. Here, we show that the 739-nucleotide-long triticum mosaic virus 5' leader bears a powerful translation element with features distinct from those described for other plant viruses. Despite the presence of 12 AUG start codons within the TriMV 5' UTR, translation initiates primarily at the 13th AUG codon. The TriMV 5' UTR is capable of driving cap-independent translation in vitro and in vivo, is independent of eIF4E, and can drive internal translation initiation. A hairpin structure at nucleotide positions 469 to 490 is required for the cap-independent translation and internal translation initiation abilities of the element and plays a role in the ability of the TriMV UTR to compete against a capped RNA in vitro. Our results reveal a novel translation enhancer that may provide new insights into the large diversity of plant virus translation mechanisms.

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