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Biochemistry. 1998 Aug 4;37(31):10866-70.

Rabbit beta-globin is extended beyond its UGA stop codon by multiple suppressions and translational reading gaps.

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Laboratory of Basic Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Translational reading gaps occur when genetic information encoded in mRNA is not translated during the normal course of protein synthesis. This phenomenon has been observed thus far only in prokaryotes and is a mechanism for extending the reading frame by circumventing the normal stop codon. Reading frames of proteins may also be extended by suppression of the stop codon mediated by a suppressor tRNA. The rabbit beta-globin read-through protein, the only known, naturally occurring read-through protein in eukaryotes, was sequenced by ion trap mass spectrometry to determine how the reading frame is extended. Seven different proteolytic peptide fragments decoded by the same sequence that spans the UGA stop codon of rabbit beta-globin mRNA were detected. Three of these peptides contain translational reading gaps of one to three amino acids that correspond to the UGA stop codon site and/or one or two of the immediate downstream codons. To our knowledge, this is the first reported example of the occurrence of reading gaps in protein synthesis in eukaryotes. This event is unique in that it is associated with bypasses involving staggered lengths of untranslated information. Four of the seven peptides contain serine, tryptophan, cysteine, and arginine decoded by UGA and thus arise by suppression. Serine is donated by selenocysteine tRNA, and it, like the other tRNAs, has previously been shown to suppress UGA in vitro in mammals, but not in vivo.

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