Typically, the translation of eukaryotic mRNAs into protein is initiated at a single site. However, we have recently shown that not one but two primary products, P20a and P16, are translated from the 5′ end of the coding region of the genome of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV). In this paper we show by partial protease digestion of these proteins that they differ only at their N termini, thus confirming the presence of two initiation sites for translation of FMDV RNA. Sequence analysis of two subtypes of the virus (A and A) confirms the presence of two initiator AUG codons in the expected position on the genome. By correlation with protein synthesis data from these subtypes it appears that the relative use of each initiation site is dependent on its surrounding nucleotide sequence. In addition, the ratio of the two proteins when synthesized differs markedly from that when they are synthesized , suggesting the presence of a control mechanism for synthesis of P20a which may be absent . We also show that the cleavage site between these two proteins and the structural protein precursor, P88, is located closer to the N terminus of the polyprotein than has previously been reported.


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