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Nucleic Acids Res. 1993 Dec 25;21(25):5838-42.

An 'elaborated' pseudoknot is required for high frequency frameshifting during translation of HCV 229E polymerase mRNA.

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Institute of Virology, University of W├╝rzburg, Germany.


The RNA polymerase gene (gene 1) of the human coronavirus 229E is approximately 20 kb in length and is located at the 5' end of the positive-strand genomic RNA. The coding sequence of gene 1 is divided into two large open reading frames, ORF1a and ORF1b, that overlap by 43 nucleotides. In the region of the ORF1a/ORF1b overlap, the genomic RNA displays two elements that are known to mediate (-1) ribosomal frameshifting. These are the slippery sequence, UUUAAAC, and a 3' pseudoknot structure. By introducing site-specific mutations into synthetic mRNAs, we have analysed the predicted structure of the HCV 229E pseudoknot and shown that besides the well-known stem structures, S1 and S2, a third stem structure, S3, is required for a high frequency of frameshifting. The requirement for an S3 stem is independent of the length of loop 2.

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