Alternative translation initiation of Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus

Kenji Yamasaki, Conrad C. Weihl, Raymond P. Roos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


DA strain and other members of the TO subgroup of Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) produce a chronic demyelinating disease in which the virus persists but has a restricted expression. We previously reported that TO subgroup strains, in addition to synthesizing the picornaviral polyprotein, use an alternative initiation codon just downstream from the polyprotein's AUG to translate an 18-kDa protein called L* that is out of frame with the polyprotein (H. H. Chen et al., Nat. Med. 1:927-931, 1995; W. P. Kong and R. P. Roos, J. Virol. 65:3395-3399, 1991). L* is critically important for virus persistence and the induction of the demyelinating disease (Chen et al., 1995; G. D. Ghadge et al. J. Virol. 72:8605-8612, 1998). We have proposed that variations in the amount of translation initiation from the L* AUG versus the polyprotein AUG may occur in different cell types and therefore affect the degree of expression of viral capsid proteins. We now demonstrate that ribosomal translation initiation at the polyprotein's initiation codon affects initiation at the L* AUG, suggesting that ribosomes land at the polyprotein's initiation codon before scanning downstream and initiating at the L* AUG. We also find that the viral 5' untranslated region affects utilization of the L* AUG. Surprisingly, mutant DA cDNAs were found to be infectious despite the presence of mutations of the polyprotein initiation codon or placement of a stop codon upstream of the L* AUG in the polyprotein's reading frame. Sequencing studies showed that these viruses had a second site mutation, converting the reading frame of L* into the polyprotein's reading frame; the results suggest that translation of the polyprotein during infection of these mutant viruses can be initiated at the L* AUG. These data are important in our understanding of translation initiation of TMEV and other RNAs that contain an internal ribosome entry site.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8519-8526
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 29 1999
Externally publishedYes

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