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Virology. 1997 Jun 23;233(1):9-18.

Genetic analysis of internal ribosomal entry site on hepatitis C virus RNA: implication for involvement of the highly ordered structure and cell type-specific transacting factors.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Tokyo, Japan.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) carries an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) within the 5' portion of the RNA. To identify structures that influence efficiency of the translation initiation, relative activities of modified IRESs were examined by using engineered bicistronic mRNAs, between the two cistrons of which various mutant IRESs were inserted. An IRES derived from genotype 2b is at least two times more efficient than one from genotype 1b in cultured cells. Activity ratios of genotype 2b IRES to 1b IRES differ in magnification among cultured cells, suggesting the difference in assortment of IRES-related host factors among individual cell types. Recombinant IRESs between the genotypes show similar or higher activities compared with 2b IRES in cell-free systems and show intermediate activities in cultured cells. Patterns of relative activities of those IRESs indicate that the IRES activity is not regulated by defined structure(s), although a cluster of different nucleotides is observed in the genome region of nucleotides 176-224 between the two alleles. The results suggest that a highly ordered structure formed by the entire 5' portion of the RNA is important for the IRES activity. The 5' border of HCV IRES was examined by using a series of deletion RNAs in various systems. The results strongly suggest that the border resides between nucleotide positions 28 and 45. Patterns of relative activities of the deletion IRESs differ in translation systems or cell types. These results imply that interactions of HCV RNA with the related transacting factor(s) may differ in the translation systems or cell types.

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