3 years ago

The 5'-poly(A) leader of poxvirus mRNA confers a translational advantage that can be achieved in cells with impaired cap-dependent translation

Zhilong Yang, Pragyesh Dhungel, Shuai Cao

by Pragyesh Dhungel, Shuai Cao, Zhilong Yang

The poly(A) leader at the 5’-untranslated region (5’-UTR) is an unusually striking feature of all poxvirus mRNAs transcribed after viral DNA replication (post-replicative mRNAs). These poly(A) leaders are non-templated and of heterogeneous lengths; and their function during VACV infection remains a long-standing question. Here, we discovered that a 5’-poly(A) leader conferred a selective translational advantage to mRNA in poxvirus-infected cells. A constitutive and uninterrupted 5’-poly(A) leader with 12 residues was optimal. Because the most frequent lengths of the 5’-poly(A) leaders are 8–12 residues, the result suggests that the poly(A) leader has been evolutionarily optimized to boost VACV protein production. A 5’-poly(A) leader also could increase protein production in the bacteriophage T7 promoter-based vaccinia virus expression system, the prototypic member of poxviruses. Interestingly, although vaccinia virus post-replicative mRNAs do have 5’- methylated guanosine caps and can use cap-dependent translation, in vaccinia virus-infected cells, mRNA with a 5’-poly(A) leader could also be efficiently translated in cells with impaired cap-dependent translation. However, the translation was not mediated through an internal ribosome entry site (IRES). These results point to a fundamental mechanism poxvirus uses to efficiently translate its post-replicative mRNAs.
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