The initiation of protein synthesis on mRNAs within eukaryotic cells is achieved either by a 5' cap-dependent mechanism or through internal initiation directed by an internal ribosome entry site (IRES). Picornavirus IRES elements, located in the 59 untranslated region (5'UTR), contain extensive secondary structure and multiple upstream AUG codons. These features can be expected to inhibit cap-dependent initiation of translation. However, we have now shown that certain mutant hepatitis C virus-like picornavirus IRES elements (from porcine teschovirus-1 and avian encephalomyelitis virus), which are unable to direct internal initiation, are not significant barriers to efficient translation of capped monocistronic mRNAs that contain these defective elements within their 5'UTRs. Moreover, the translation of these mRNAs is highly sensitive to the expression of an enterovirus 2A protease (which induces cleavage of eIF4G) and is also inhibited by hippuristanol, a specific inhibitor of eIF4A function, in contrast to their parental wild-type IRES elements. These results provide a possible basis for the evolution of viral IRES elements within the context of functional mRNAs that are translated by a cap-dependent mechanism.
- protein synthesis