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Structural organization of a viral IRES depends on the integrity of the GNRA motif

AuthorsFernández-Miragall, Olga ; Martínez-Salas, Encarnación
Internal initiation of translation
RNA structure
Issue Date2003
PublisherCambridge University Press
CitationRNA 2003. 9: 1333-1344
AbstractLittle is known about the tertiary structure of internal ribosome entry site (IRES) elements. The central domain of foot-and-mouth disease (FMDV) IRES, named 3 or I, contains a conserved GNRA motif, essential for IRES activity. We have combined functional analysis with RNA probing to define its structural organization. We have found that a UNCG motif does not functionally substitute the GNRA motif; moreover, binding of synthetic GNRA stem–loops to domain 3 was significantly reduced in RNAs bearing UCCG or GUAG substitutions. The apical region of domain 3 consists of a four-way junction where residues of the GNRA tetraloop are responsible for the organization of the adjacent stem–loops, as deduced from ribonucleases and dimethyl sulfate accessibility. A single A-to-G substitution in the fourth position of this motif led to a strong RNA reorganization, affecting several nucleotides away in the secondary structure of domain 3. The study of mutants bearing UNCG or GUAG tetraloops revealed lack of protection to chemical attack in native RNA at specific nucleotides relative to the parental GUAA, suggesting that the GNRA motif dictates the organization and stability of domain 3. This effect is likely mediated by the interaction with distant residues. Therefore, the GNRA motif plays a crucial role in the organization of IRES structure with important consequences on activity
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1261/rna.5950603
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