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FEBS Lett. 1996 Sep 2;392(3):220-4.

The RU5 ('R') region from human leukaemia viruses (HTLV-1) contains an internal ribosome entry site (IRES)-like sequence.

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Unité de Différenciation Cellulaire, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Jouy-en-Josas, France.


RNA fragments containing the complete R region and the beginning of the U5 region ('R') from the human T cell leukaemia virus 1 (HTLV-1) stimulated the translation of the second cistrons in bicistronic mRNAs. The 5' untranslated region from SV40 early genes (SU) which was unable to stimulate translation of second cistrons amplified markedly the internal ribosome entry site (IRES) effect of the HTLV-1 'R' fragments. The 'R' regions from HTLV-1 have therefore properties similar to internal ribosome entry sites (IRES) originally found in picornavirus. The beginning of the U5 region from HTLV-1 contains a polypyrimidine sequence which is known to play an essential role in the IRES activity in picornavirus. The same experiments carried out using the 'R' region from bovine leukaemia virus (BLV) showed that this sequence has at most a weak IRES effect. One retroviruses, HTLV-1 and perhaps others contain therefore an IRES activity. Interestingly, the combined SU 'R' sequence worked efficiently with different cistrons, different promoters and in all tested cell lines, whereas the poliovirus IRES was active in CHO cells but not in the mouse mammary cell line HC11. The SU 'R' sequence may therefore preferably be used to generate active bicistronic mRNAs.

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