1887

Abstract

Efficient internal initiation of translation from the hepatitis C virus (HCV) internal ribosome entry site (IRES) requires sequences of domain II, but the precise role of these sequences is still unknown. In this study, the formation of RNA–RNA complexes in the HCV IRES was evaluated. Using transcripts that contain the sequences of the structural HCV IRES domains II, IIIabcd, IIIabc, IV and IIIef-IV, specific long-range interactions between domains II and IV, as well as domains II and IIIabcd, have been found. These interactions were readily detected in a gel mobility-shift assay and required the presence of magnesium ions. A high concentration of nonspecific competitors, an 80 nt fragment of 18S rRNA or poly(I:C), did not interfere with the formation of RNA complexes. Interestingly, an RNA oligonucleotide bearing the sequence of stem–loop IIId interacted with domain II but not with domain IV or IIIef-IV, strongly suggesting that the interaction between domains II and IIIabcd was mediated by the IIId hairpin. Interaction between domains IIIabcd and IV was barely detected, consistent with the result that the apical part of domain III folds independently of the rest of the IRES. Moreover, the addition of stem–loop IIIef sequences to domain IV significantly reduced its ability to interact, which is in agreement with the formation of a compact RNA structure of domain IV with IIIef. The interactions observed in the absence of proteins between domains II and IV as well as stem–loop IIId and domain II may be transient, having a regulatory role in the translation efficiency of the HCV IRES.

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2002-05-01
2019-10-24
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