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1.  Regulation of Gene Expression by Internal Ribosome Entry Sites or Cryptic Promoters: the eIF4G Story 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(21):7372-7384.
As an alternative to the scanning mechanism of initiation, the direct-internal-initiation mechanism postulates that the translational machinery assembles at the AUG start codon without traversing the entire 5′ untranslated region (5′-UTR) of the mRNA. Although the existence of internal ribosome entry sites (IRESs) in viral mRNAs is considered to be well established, the existence of IRESs in cellular mRNAs has recently been challenged, in part because when testing is carried out using a conventional dicistronic vector, Northern blot analyses might not be sensitive enough to detect low levels of monocistronic transcripts derived via a cryptic promoter or splice site. To address this concern, we created a new promoterless dicistronic vector to test the putative IRES derived from the 5′-UTR of an mRNA that encodes the translation initiation factor eIF4G. Our analysis of this 5′-UTR sequence unexpectedly revealed a strong promoter. The activity of the internal promoter relies on the integrity of a polypyrimidine tract (PPT) sequence that had been identified as an essential component of the IRES. The PPT sequence overlaps with a binding site for transcription factor C/EBPβ. Two other transcription factors, Sp1 and Ets, were also found to bind to and mediate expression from the promoter in the 5′-UTR of eIF4G mRNA. The biological significance of the internal promoter in the eIF4G mRNA might lie in the production of an N-terminally truncated form of the protein. Consistent with the idea that the cryptic promoter we identified underlies the previously reported IRES activity, we found no evidence of IRES function when a dicistronic mRNA containing the eIF4G sequence was translated in vitro or in vivo. Using the promoterless dicistronic vector, we also found promoter activities in the long 5′-UTRs of human Sno and mouse Bad mRNAs although monocistronic transcripts were not detectable on Northern blot analyses. The promoterless dicistronic vector might therefore prove useful in future studies to examine more rigorously the claim that there is IRES activity in cellular mRNAs.
PMCID: PMC135655  PMID: 12370285
2.  Cryptic promoter activity in the DNA sequence corresponding to the pim-1 5′-UTR 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(7):2248-2258.
The serine/threonine kinase pim-1 mRNA contains a long and G/C rich 5′-untranslated region (5′-UTR). Previous work suggested that the pim-1 5′-UTR harbors an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) allowing for internal initiation of translation. However, several previously reported eukaryotic IRES elements actually contain cryptic promoter activity. To test whether an IRES or a cryptic promoter is present in the pim-1 5′-UTR, the 5′-UTR was re-examined using stringent test procedures. Our results show the presence of strong promoter activity in the DNA sequence corresponding to the pim-1 5′-UTR. Both promoterless dicistronic test and northern blot analysis show transcripts being derived from the cryptic promoter in the pim-1 5′-UTR sequence. This cryptic promoter is active in all cell types tested, including Cos-7, NIH3T3, HEK293, Jurkat and K562 cells. When a dicistronic mRNA containing the pim-1 5′-UTR was translated in vitro or in vivo, no IRES activity could be detected. However, the control IRESs from both human rhinovirus and encephalomyocarditis virus exhibited strong IRES activities. In addition, both the RNase protection assay and the 5′-RACE assay detected endogenous pim-1 transcripts with shorter 5′-UTRs. Our data strongly suggest that the IRES activity reported earlier for the pim-1 5′-UTR sequence is due to cryptic promoter activity.
PMCID: PMC1083428  PMID: 15843687
3.  The 5′ untranslated regions (UTRs) of CCN1, CCN2, and CCN4 exhibit cryptic promoter activity 
CCNs are structurally related matricellular proteins that are highly expressed in many embryonic and adult tissues, including the skeletal system and tumors, where canonical cap-dependent translation is suppressed under hypoxic environments. CCNs are encoded by mRNAs containing long G/C rich 5′-untranslated regions (5′-UTRs). Given that they are expressed under conditions of cellular stress, it has been suggested that the long G/C-rich regions contain internal ribosomal entry sites (IRES) that allow these mRNAS to be translated under conditions where cap-dependent translation is suppressed. Previously published work supported this possibility. However, recent studies have shown that a number of previously reported cellular IRES elements do not in fact possess IRES activity. Here we aimed to reveal whether the 5′UTRs of CCNs harbor IRES activities. The 5′UTRs of CCN1, 2, and 4 were tested in this study. Our results showed that the 5′UTRs of these genes do not contain IRES elements, but instead appear to contain cryptic promoters. Both promoterless and hairpin-containing dicistronic tests showed that transcription was initiated by cryptic promoter elements in 5′UTRs of CCN1, 2, and 4. When dicistronic mRNAs were translated in vitro or in vivo, no IRES activities were detected in the 5′UTRs of CCN1, 2, and 4. Furthermore, these cryptic promoter activities from 5′UTRs of CCN1, 2, and 4 could be detected in various cell types, including chondrocytes, osteoblasts, and endothelial cells, where the cryptic promoter permitted varying degrees of activation. In addition, the core promoter element of the CCN2 5′UTR was identified. CCNs are expressed under conditions of cellular stress, and it has been suggested that some CCN family members utilize IRES-mediated translation initiation to facilitate this expression. We found no evidence for IRES activity, but rather found that the unusually long 5′UTRs of CCNs 1, 2, and 4 harbor cryptic promoters that showed varying degrees of activity in different cell types. These results suggest that these promoters may contribute to the regulation of CCN genes in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2267653  PMID: 18481207
CCN1 (Cyr61); CCN2 (CTGF); CCN4 (WISP-1); IRES; Cryptic promoter
4.  A Novel Mutation in the Upstream Open Reading Frame of the CDKN1B Gene Causes a MEN4 Phenotype 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(3):e1003350.
The CDKN1B gene encodes the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27KIP1, an atypical tumor suppressor playing a key role in cell cycle regulation, cell proliferation, and differentiation. Impaired p27KIP1 expression and/or localization are often observed in tumor cells, further confirming its central role in regulating the cell cycle. Recently, germline mutations in CDKN1B have been associated with the inherited multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 4, an autosomal dominant syndrome characterized by varying combinations of tumors affecting at least two endocrine organs. In this study we identified a 4-bp deletion in a highly conserved regulatory upstream ORF (uORF) in the 5′UTR of the CDKN1B gene in a patient with a pituitary adenoma and a well-differentiated pancreatic neoplasm. This deletion causes the shift of the uORF termination codon with the consequent lengthening of the uORF–encoded peptide and the drastic shortening of the intercistronic space. Our data on the immunohistochemical analysis of the patient's pancreatic lesion, functional studies based on dual-luciferase assays, site-directed mutagenesis, and on polysome profiling show a negative influence of this deletion on the translation reinitiation at the CDKN1B starting site, with a consequent reduction in p27KIP1 expression. Our findings demonstrate that, in addition to the previously described mechanisms leading to reduced p27KIP1 activity, such as degradation via the ubiquitin/proteasome pathway or non-covalent sequestration, p27KIP1 activity can also be modulated by an uORF and mutations affecting uORF could change p27KIP1 expression. This study adds the CDKN1B gene to the short list of genes for which mutations that either create, delete, or severely modify their regulatory uORFs have been associated with human diseases.
Author Summary
Gene expression can be modulated at different steps on the way from DNA to protein including control of transcription, translation, and post-translational modifications. An abnormality in the regulation of mRNA and protein expression is a hallmark of many human diseases, including cancer. In some eukaryotic genes translation can be influenced by small DNA sequences termed upstream open reading frames (uORFs). These elements located upstream to the gene start codon may either negatively influence the ability of the translational machinery to reinitiate translation of the main protein or, much less frequently, stimulate protein translation by enabling the ribosomes to bypass cis-acting inhibitory elements. CDKN1B, which encodes the cell cycle inhibitor p27KIP1, includes an uORF in its 5′UTR sequence. p27KIP1 expression is often reduced in cancer, and germline mutations have been identified in CDKN1B in patients affected with a syndrome (MEN4) characterized by varying combinations of tumors in endocrine glands. Here we show that a small deletion in the uORF upstream to CDKN1B reduces translation reinitiation efficiency, leading to underexpression of p27KIP1 and coinciding with tumorigenesis. This study describes a novel mechanism by which p27KIP1 could be underexpressed in human tumors. In addition, our data provide a new insight to the unique pathogenic potential of uORFs in human diseases.
PMCID: PMC3605397  PMID: 23555276
5.  Inherent Instability of Poliovirus Genomes Containing Two Internal Ribosome Entry Site (IRES) Elements Supports a Role for the IRES in Encapsidation 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(18):8335-8342.
Previous studies have described poliovirus genomes in which the internal ribosome entry (IRES) for encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) is positioned between the P1 and P2-P3 open reading frames of the poliovirus genome. Although these dicistronic poliovirus genomes were replication competent, most exhibited evidence of genetic instability, and the EMCV IRES was deleted upon serial passage. One possible reason for instability of the genome is that the dicistronic genome was at least 108% larger than the wild-type poliovirus genome, which could reduce the efficiency of encapsidation. To address this possibility, we have constructed dicistronic poliovirus replicons by substituting the EMCV IRES and the gene encoding luciferase in place of the poliovirus P1 region; the resulting dicistronic replicons are smaller than the wild-type poliovirus genome. One dicistronic genome was constructed in which the poliovirus 5′ nontranslated region was fused to the gene encoding luciferase, followed by the complete EMCV IRES fused to the P2-P3 region of the poliovirus genome (PV-Luc-EMCV). A second dicistronic genome, EMCV-Luc-PV, was constructed with the first 108 nucleotides of the poliovirus genome fused to the EMCV IRES, followed by the gene encoding luciferase and the poliovirus IRES fused to the remaining P2-P3 region of the poliovirus genome. Both dicistronic replicons expressed abundant luciferase following transfection of in vitro-transcribed RNA into HeLa cells at 30, 33, or 37°C. The luciferase activity detected from PV-Luc-EMCV increased rapidly during the first 4 h following transfection and then plateaued, peaking after approximately 24 h. In contrast, the luciferase activity detected from EMCV-Luc-PV increased for approximately 12 h following transfection; by 24 h posttransfection, the overall levels of luciferase activity were similar to that of PV-Luc-EMCV. To analyze encapsidation of the dicistronic replicons, we used a system in which the capsid protein (P1) is provided in trans from a recombinant vaccinia virus (VV-P1). The PV-Luc-EMCV replicon was unstable upon serial passage in the presence of VV-P1, with deletions of the EMCV IRES region detected even during the initial transfection at 37°C. Following serial passage in the presence of VV-P1 at 33 or 30°C, we detected deleted genomes in which the luciferase gene was fused with the P2-P3 genes of the poliovirus genome so as to maintain the translational reading frame. In contrast, the EMCV-Luc-PV replicon was genetically stable during passage with VV-P1 at 33 or 30°C. The encapsidation of EMCV-Luc-PV was compared to that of monocistronic replicons encoding luciferase with either a poliovirus or EMCV IRES. Analysis of the encapsidated replicons after four serial passages with VV-P1 revealed that the dicistronic replicon was encapsidated more efficiently than the monocistronic replicon with the EMCV IRES but less efficiently than the monicistronic replicon with the poliovirus IRES. The results of this study suggest a genetic predisposition for picornavirus genomes to contain a single IRES region and are discussed with respect to a role of the IRES in encapsidation.
PMCID: PMC116343  PMID: 10954532
6.  The major transcription initiation site of the p27Kip1 gene is conserved in human and mouse and produces a long 5'-UTR 
The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1 is essential for proper control of cell cycle progression. The levels of p27Kip1 are regulated by several mechanisms including transcriptional and translational controls. In order to delineate the molecular details of these regulatory mechanisms it is important to identify the transcription initiation site within the p27Kip1 gene, thereby defining the promoter region of the gene and the 5'-untranslated region of the p27Kip1 mRNA. Although several previous studies have attempted to map p27Kip1 transcription start sites, the results vary widely for both the mouse and human genes. In addition, even though the mouse and human p27Kip1 gene sequences are very highly conserved, the reported start sites are notably different.
In this report, using a method that identifies capped ends of mRNA molecules together with RNase protection assays, we demonstrate that p27Kip1 transcription is initiated predominantly from a single site which is conserved in the human and mouse genes. Initiation at this site produces a 5'-untranslated region of 472 nucleotides in the human p27Kip1 mRNA and 502 nucleotides in the mouse p27Kip1 mRNA. In addition, several minor transcription start sites were identified for both the mouse and human genes.
These results demonstrate that the major transcription initiation sites in the mouse and human p27Kip1 genes are conserved and that the 5'-UTR of the p27Kip1 mRNA is much longer than generally believed. It will be important to consider these findings when designing experiments to identify elements that are involved in regulating the cellular levels of p27Kip1.
PMCID: PMC59625  PMID: 11696240
7.  Partial hepatectomy in rats results in immediate down-regulation of p27Kip1 in residual liver tissue by transcriptional and post-translational processes 
Purpose: The cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk) inhibitor p27Kip1 may be involved in regulating re-entry of residual hepatocytes into the cell cycle upon loss of liver tissue by partial hepatectomy (PH). As yet, changes in Kip1 expression during the initial period following PH are not well-characterized. We investigated immediate changes in Kip1 mRNA and protein levels as well as changes in Kip1 phosphorylation in liver tissue within the relevant time window between surgery and the onset of DNA synthesis at 10–12 h.
Methods: We used real-time PCR, quantitative Western blotting, and immune histochemistry on tissue samples of adult rats obtained during or between 2 and 10 h after surgical removal of two thirds of the liver to analyze Kip1 mRNA or protein levels, respectively, or to quantify nuclear expression of Kip1.
Results: Kip1 mRNA was down-regulated within 4 h after PH by 60% and remained unchanged thereafter up to 10 h. With a lag phase of 2–3 h, Kip1-protein was down-regulated to a level of 40% of the control. The level of Thr187-phosphorylated Kip1 started to increase at 4 h and reached a maximum level at 8–10 h after PH. Kip1 immunoreactivity was observed in 30% of the hepatocytes before PH. Within 6–8 h after PH, more than half of the hepatocytes lost nuclear Kip1 signals. Kip1-specific micro-RNAs (miRNA221, miRNA222) were not changed upon PH.
Conclusions: A portion of hepatocytes in adult rats constitutively express Kip1 and down-regulate Kip1 immediately upon PH. This response involves transcriptional processes (loss of Kip1 mRNA) as well as accelerated degradation of existing protein (increase in pThr187-phosphorylation mediating polyubiquitinylation and proteasomal degradation of Kip1). Kip1 down-regulation occurs precisely within the intervall between surgery and onset of DNA synthesis which supports the hypothesis that it mediates activation of G0/0S-phase Cdk/cyclin-complexes and re-entry of hepatocytes into the cell cycle.
PMCID: PMC3680744  PMID: 23781207
cell cycle regulator; cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor; Kip1; compensatory growth; liver regeneration; rat hepatocytes; cell proliferation
8.  UNR translation can be driven by an IRES element that is negatively regulated by polypyrimidine tract binding protein 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(10):3095-3108.
Upstream of N-ras (Unr) has been described as an internal initiation trans-acting factor (ITAF) in the cap-independent translation of some particular viral and cellular mRNAs. Two factors led us to hypothesize that the UNR 5′-untranslated region (5′-UTR) may contain an internal ribosome entry site (IRES). The first was the requirement for persisting Unr expression under conditions that correlate with cap-independent translation. The other was the observation that the primary UNR transcript contains a 447 nt long 5′-UTR including two upstream AUGs that may restrict translation initiation via cap-dependent ribosome scanning. Here we report that the UNR 5′-UTR allows IRES-dependent translation, as revealed by a dicistronic reporter assay. Various controls ruled out the contribution of leaky scanning, cryptic promoter sequences or RNA processing events to the ability of the UNR 5′-UTR to mediate internal initiation of translation. Ultraviolet cross-linking analysis and RNA affinity chromatography revealed the binding of polypyrimidine tract binding protein (PTB) to the UNR IRES, requiring a pyrimidine-rich region (nucleotides 335–355). Whereas overexpression of PTB in several cell lines inhibited UNR IRES activity and UNR protein expression, depletion of endogenous PTB using RNAi increased UNR IRES activity. Moreover, a mutant version of the UNR IRES lacking the PTB binding site was more efficient at directing IRES-mediated translation. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that translation of the ITAF Unr can itself be regulated by an IRES that is downregulated by PTB.
PMCID: PMC1142345  PMID: 15928332
9.  petD mRNA maturation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii chloroplasts: role of 5' endonucleolytic processing. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1994;14(9):6180-6186.
Complex processing of primary transcripts occurs during the expression of higher-plant chloroplast genes. In Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, most chloroplast genes appear to possess their own promoters, rather than being transcribed as part of multicistronic operons. By generating specific deletion mutants, we show that petD, which encodes subunit IV of the cytochrome b6/f complex, has an RNA processing site that is required for accumulation of monocistronic petD mRNA in petD promoter deletion mutants; in such mutants, transcription of petD originates from the upstream petA promoter. The 5' ends of transcripts initiated at the petD promoter are probably also generated by processing, since the 5' end of monocistronic petD mRNA is the same in wild-type strains as it is in the petD promoter mutants. The location and function of the processing site were further examined by inserting petD-uidA fusion genes into the chloroplast genome (uidA is an Escherichia coli gene that encodes beta-glucuronidase). When a promoterless petD-uidA fusion gene was inserted downstream of petA, a monocistronic uidA transcript accumulated, which was apparently initiated at the petA promoter and was processed at a site corresponding precisely to the petD mRNA 5' end. When a construct including only sequences downstream of +25 relative to the mature mRNA 5' end was inserted into the same site, a dicistronic petA-uidA transcript accumulated but no monocistronic uidA transcript could be detected, suggesting that a processing site lies at least partially within the region from -1 to +25. Beta-glucuronidase activity was not detected in transformants that accumulated only the dicistronic petA-uidA transcript, suggesting that the first 25 bp of the 5' untranslated region are required for translation initiation. One explanation for this translational defect is that Chlamydomonas chloroplasts cannot translate the second coding region of some dicistronic messages.
PMCID: PMC359145  PMID: 8065351
10.  Polypyrimidine Tract-Binding Protein Enhances the Internal Ribosomal Entry Site-Dependent Translation of p27Kip1 mRNA and Modulates Transition from G1 to S Phase 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(4):1283-1297.
The p27Kip1 protein plays a critical role in the regulation of cell proliferation through the inhibition of cyclin-dependent kinase activity. Translation of p27Kip1 is directed by an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) in the 5′ nontranslated region of p27Kip1 mRNA. Here, we report that polypyrimidine tract-binding protein (PTB) specifically enhances the IRES activity of p27Kip1 mRNA through an interaction with the IRES element. We found that addition of PTB to an in vitro translation system and overexpression of PTB in 293T cells augmented the IRES activity of p27Kip1 mRNA but that knockdown of PTB by introduction of PTB-specific small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) diminished the IRES activity of p27Kip1 mRNA. Moreover, the G1 phase in the cell cycle (which is maintained in part by p27Kip1) was shortened in cells depleted of PTB by siRNA knockdown. 12-O-Tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced differentiation in HL60 cells was used to examine PTB-induced modulation of p27Kip1 protein synthesis during differentiation. The IRES activity of p27Kip1 mRNA in HL60 cells was increased by TPA treatment (with a concomitant increase in PTB protein levels), but the levels of p27Kip1 mRNA remained unchanged. Together, these data suggest that PTB modulates cell cycle and differentiation, at least in part, by enhancing the IRES activity of p27Kip1 mRNA.
PMCID: PMC548013  PMID: 15684381
11.  Cortactin Modulates RhoA Activation and Expression of Cip/Kip Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitors To Promote Cell Cycle Progression in 11q13-Amplified Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cells ▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(21):5057-5070.
The cortactin oncoprotein is frequently overexpressed in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), often due to amplification of the encoding gene (CTTN). While cortactin overexpression enhances invasive potential, recent research indicates that it also promotes cell proliferation, but how cortactin regulates the cell cycle machinery is unclear. In this article we report that stable short hairpin RNA-mediated cortactin knockdown in the 11q13-amplified cell line FaDu led to increased expression of the Cip/Kip cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (CDKIs) p21WAF1/Cip1, p27Kip1, and p57Kip2 and inhibition of S-phase entry. These effects were associated with increased binding of p21WAF1/Cip1 and p27Kip1 to cyclin D1- and E1-containing complexes and decreased retinoblastoma protein phosphorylation. Cortactin regulated expression of p21WAF1/Cip1 and p27Kip1 at the transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels, respectively. The direct roles of p21WAF1/Cip1, p27Kip1, and p57Kip2 downstream of cortactin were confirmed by the transient knockdown of each CDKI by specific small interfering RNAs, which led to partial rescue of cell cycle progression. Interestingly, FaDu cells with reduced cortactin levels also exhibited a significant diminution in RhoA expression and activity, together with decreased expression of Skp2, a critical component of the SCF ubiquitin ligase that targets p27Kip1 and p57Kip2 for degradation. Transient knockdown of RhoA in FaDu cells decreased expression of Skp2, enhanced the level of Cip/Kip CDKIs, and attenuated S-phase entry. These findings identify a novel mechanism for regulation of proliferation in 11q13-amplified HNSCC cells, in which overexpressed cortactin acts via RhoA to decrease expression of Cip/Kip CDKIs, and highlight Skp2 as a downstream effector for RhoA in this process.
PMCID: PMC2953065  PMID: 20805359
12.  Improved vectors for stable expression of foreign genes in mammalian cells by use of the untranslated leader sequence from EMC virus. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1991;19(16):4485-4490.
Dicistronic mRNA expression vectors efficiently translate a 5' open reading frame (ORF) and contain a selectable marker within the 3' end which is inefficiently translated. In these vectors, the efficiency of translation of the selectable 3' ORF is reduced approximately 100-fold and is highly dependent on the particular sequences inserted into the 5' cloning site. Upon selection for expression of the selection marker gene product, deletions within the 5' ORF occur to yield more efficient translation of the selectable marker. We have generated improved dicistronic mRNA expression vectors by utilization of a putative internal ribosomal entry site isolated from encephalomyocarditis (EMC) virus. Insertion of the EMC virus leader sequence upstream of an ORF encoding either a wildtype or methotrexate resistant dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) reduces DHFR translation up to 10-fold in a monocistronic DHFR expression vector. However, insertion of another ORF upstream of the EMC leader to produce a dicistronic mRNA does not further reduce DHFR translation. In the presence of the EMC virus leader, DHFR translation is not dependent on sequences inserted into the 5' end of the mRNA. We demonstrate that stable high level expression of inserted cDNAs may be rapidly achieved by selection for methotrexate resistance in DHFR deficient as well as DHFR containing cells. In contrast to previously described dicistronic expression vectors, these new vectors do not undergo rearrangement or deletion upon selection for amplification by propagation in increasing concentrations of methotrexate. The explanation may be either that the EMC virus leader sequence allows internal initiation of translation or that cryptic splice sites in the EMC virus sequence mediate production of monocistronic mRNAs. These vectors may be generally useful to rapidly obtain high level expression of cDNA genes in mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC328638  PMID: 1653417
13.  Efficient Translation Initiation Directed by the 900-Nucleotide-Long and GC-Rich 5′ Untranslated Region of the Human Retrotransposon LINE-1 mRNA Is Strictly Cap Dependent Rather than Internal Ribosome Entry Site Mediated▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(13):4685-4697.
Retrotransposon L1 is a mobile genetic element of the LINE family that is extremely widespread in the mammalian genome. It encodes a dicistronic mRNA, which is exceptionally rare among eukaryotic cellular mRNAs. The extremely long and GC-rich L1 5′ untranslated region (5′UTR) directs synthesis of numerous copies of RNA-binding protein ORF1p per mRNA. One could suggest that the 5′UTR of L1 mRNA contained a powerful internal ribosome entry site (IRES) element. Using transfection of cultured cells with the polyadenylated monocistronic (L1 5′UTR-Fluc) or bicistronic (Rluc-L1 5′UTR-Fluc) RNA constructs, capped or uncapped, it has been firmly established that the 5′UTR of L1 does not contain an IRES. Uncapping reduces the initiation activity of the L1 5′UTR to that of background. Moreover, the translation is inhibited by upstream AUG codons in the 5′UTR. Nevertheless, this cap-dependent initiation activity of the L1 5′UTR was unexpectedly high and resembles that of the beta-actin 5′UTR (84 nucleotides long). Strikingly, the deletion of up to 80% of the nucleotide sequence of the L1 5′UTR, with most of its stem loops, does not significantly change its translation initiation efficiency. These data can modify current ideas on mechanisms used by 40S ribosomal subunits to cope with complex 5′UTRs and call into question the conception that every long GC-rich 5′UTR working with a high efficiency has to contain an IRES. Our data also demonstrate that the ORF2 translation initiation is not directed by internal initiation, either. It is very inefficient and presumably based on a reinitiation event.
PMCID: PMC1951496  PMID: 17470553
14.  Construction of a bifunctional mRNA in the mouse by using the internal ribosomal entry site of the encephalomyocarditis virus. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1992;12(8):3636-3643.
Picornaviral mRNAs have been shown to possess special structures in their 5' nontranslated regions (5'NTRs) that provide sites for internal binding of ribosomes and thus direct cap-independent translation. The translational cis-acting elements for ribosomal internal entry into the 5'NTR of encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV), a member of family Picornaviridae, have been named the internal ribosomal entry site (IRES). All of the published experiments regarding the IRES function of the picornavirus 5'NTR, however, were performed with cell extracts in vitro or with tissue culture cells in transient assay systems. In this study, we examined the IRES function of the EMCV 5'NTR in chimeric mouse embryos and demonstrated that this element does in fact work stably in mouse embryos as well as in embryonic stem (ES) cells. By using a dicistronic vector, pWH8, consisting of a promoter-driven neomycin resistance gene (neo) followed by the EMCV 5'NTR-lacZ sequence, we showed that more than half of the ES cells made G418 resistant by the vector stained positive for beta-galactosidase (beta-gal). On Northern (RNA) blots, all of the clones analyzed revealed a transcript of the expected size containing both the beta-gal and the neo cistrons. These results indicate that dicistronic mRNAs are produced from the stably integrated vector in those ES clones and that both of the cistrons are translated to produce functional proteins. The chimeric embryos derived from these ES clones also stained positive for beta-gal, suggesting that the bifunctional mRNAs are active in the embryos. This dicistronic vector system provides a novel tool by which to obtain temporally and spatially coordinated expression of two different genes driven by a single promoter in a single cell in mice.
PMCID: PMC364630  PMID: 1321342
15.  An internal ribosomal entry signal in the rat VL30 region of the Harvey murine sarcoma virus leader and its use in dicistronic retroviral vectors. 
Journal of Virology  1995;69(10):6400-6407.
The genetic organization of the 5' genomic RNA domain of the highly oncogenic Harvey murine sarcoma virus appears to be unusual in that a multifunctional untranslated leader precedes the v-ras oncogene. This 5' leader is 1,076 nucleotides in length and is formed of independent regions involved in key steps of the viral life cycle: (i) the Moloney murine leukemia virus 5' repeat, untranslated 5' region, and primer binding site sequences necessary for the first steps of proviral DNA synthesis, (ii) the virus-like 30S (VL30)-derived sequence containing a functional dimerization-packaging signal (E/DLS) directing viral RNA dimerization and packaging into MLV virions, and (iii) an Alu-like sequence preceding the 5' untranslated sequence of v-rasH which contains the initiation codon of the p21ras oncoprotein. These functional features, the unusual length of this leader (1,076 nucleotides), and the presence of stable secondary structures between the cap and the v-ras initiation codon might well cause a premature stop of the scanning ribosomes and thus inhibit v-ras translation. In order to understand how Harvey murine sarcoma virus achieves a high level of expression of the ras oncogene, we asked whether the rat VL30 sequence, 5' to v-ras, could contribute to an efficient synthesis of the ras oncoprotein. The implications of the VL30 sequence in the translation initiation of Ha-ras were investigated in the rabbit reticulocyte lysate system and in murine cells. Results show that the rat VL30 sequence allows a cap-independent translation of a downstream reporter gene both in vitro and in murine cells. Additional experiments performed with dicistronic neo.VL30.lacZ mRNAs indicate that the 5' VL30 sequence (positions 380 to 794) contains an internal ribosomal entry signal. This finding led us to construct a new dicistronic retroviral vector with which the rat VL30 sequence was able to direct the efficient expression of a 3' cistron and packaging of recombinant dicistronic RNA into murine leukemia virus virions.
PMCID: PMC189539  PMID: 7666541
16.  Ultrabithorax and Antennapedia 5' untranslated regions promote developmentally regulated internal translation initiation. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(3):1714-1721.
The 5' untranslated regions (UTRs) of the Drosophila Ubx and Antp genes were tested for their ability to promote cap-independent translation initiation. The Ubx and the Antp 5' UTR were inserted between the CAT and lacZ coding sequences in a dicistronic gene and tested for IRES activity in transgenic Drosophila. Northern analysis of the mRNAs showed the presence of the predicted full-length dicistronic mRNAs. High CAT activity was expressed from the first cistron from all of the dicistronic constructs introduced into the fly genome. The dicistronic transgenic strains bearing the Ubx and Antp IRES elements expressed significant levels of beta-galactosidase (betaGAL) from the second cistron whereas little or no betaGAL was expressed in the controls lacking the IRESs. In situ analysis of betaGAL expression in the transgenic strains indicates that expression of the second cistron is spatially and temporally regulated. Although the developmental patterns of expression directed by the Antp and Ubx IRESs overlap, they exhibit several differences indicating that these IRESs are not functionally equivalent.
PMCID: PMC231896  PMID: 9032298
17.  Identifying intrinsic and extrinsic determinants that regulate internal initiation of translation mediated by the FMR1 5' leader 
Regulating synthesis of the Fragile X gene (FMR1) product, FMRP alters neural plasticity potentially through its role in the microRNA pathway. Cap-dependent translation of the FMR1 mRNA, a process requiring ribosomal scanning through the 5' leader, is likely impeded by the extensive secondary structure generated by the high guanosine/cytosine nucleotide content including the CGG triplet nucleotide repeats in the 5' leader. An alternative mechanism to initiate translation – internal initiation often utilizes secondary structure to recruit the translational machinery. Consequently, studies were undertaken to confirm and extend a previous observation that the FMR1 5' leader contains an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES).
Cellular transfection of a dicistronic DNA construct containing the FMR1 5' leader inserted into the intercistronic region yielded significant translation of the second cistron, but the FMR1 5' leader was also found to contain a cryptic promoter possibly confounding interpretation of these results. However, transfection of dicistronic and monocistronic RNA ex vivo or in vitro confirmed that the FMR1 5' leader contains an IRES. Moreover, inhibiting cap-dependent translation ex vivo did not affect the expression level of endogenous FMRP indicating a role for IRES-dependent translation of FMR1 mRNA. Analysis of the FMR1 5' leader revealed that the CGG repeats and the 5' end of the leader were vital for internal initiation. Functionally, exposure to potassium chloride or intracellular acidification and addition of polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid as mimics of neural activity and double stranded RNA, respectively, differentially affected FMR1 IRES activity.
Our results indicate that multiple stimuli influence IRES-dependent translation of the FMR1 mRNA and suggest a functional role for the CGG nucleotide repeats.
PMCID: PMC2576346  PMID: 18922172
18.  Mechanism of HIV-1 Tat RNA translation and its activation by the Tat protein 
Retrovirology  2009;6:74.
The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Tat protein is a major viral transactivator required for HIV-1 replication. In the nucleus Tat greatly stimulates the synthesis of full-length transcripts from the HIV-1 promoter by causing efficient transcriptional elongation. Tat induces elongation by directly interacting with the bulge of the transactivation response (TAR) RNA, a hairpin-loop located at the 5'-end of all nascent viral transcripts, and by recruiting cellular transcriptional co-activators. In the cytoplasm, Tat is thought to act as a translational activator of HIV-1 mRNAs. Thus, Tat plays a central role in the regulation of HIV-1 gene expression both at the level of mRNA and protein synthesis. The requirement of Tat in these processes poses an essential question on how sufficient amounts of Tat can be made early on in HIV-1 infected cells to sustain its own synthesis. To address this issue we studied translation of the Tat mRNA in vitro and in human cells using recombinant monocistronic and dicistronic RNAs containing the 5' untranslated region (5'-UTR) of Tat RNA.
This study shows that the Tat mRNA can be efficiently translated both in vitro and in cells. Furthermore, our data suggest that translation initiation from the Tat mRNA probably occurs by a internal ribosome entry site (IRES) mechanism. Finally, we show that Tat protein can strongly stimulate translation from its cognate mRNA in a TAR dependent fashion.
These results indicate that Tat mRNA translation is efficient and benefits from a feedback stimulation by the Tat protein. This translational control mechanism would ensure that minute amounts of Tat mRNA are sufficient to generate enough Tat protein required to stimulate HIV-1 replication.
PMCID: PMC2739156  PMID: 19671151
19.  Phosphorylation of p27Kip1 by JAK2 directly links cytokine receptor signaling to cell cycle control 
Oncogene  2011;30(32):3502-3512.
Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) couples ligand activation of cell surface cytokine receptors to the regulation of cellular functions including cell cycle progression, differentiation and apoptosis. It thereby coordinates biological programs such as development and hematopoiesis. Unscheduled activation of JAK2 by point mutations or chromosomal translocations can induce hyperproliferation and hematological malignancies. Typical signal transduction by the JAK2 tyrosine kinase comprises phosphorylation of STAT transcription factors. In this study, we describe the identification of the cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor p27Kip1 as a novel JAK2 substrate. JAK2 can directly bind and phosphorylate p27Kip1. Both, the JAK2 FERM domain and its kinase domain bind to p27Kip1. JAK2 phosphorylates tyrosine residue 88 (Y88) of p27Kip1. We previously reported that Y88 phosphorylation of p27Kip1 by oncogenic tyrosine kinases impairs p27Kip1-mediated CDK inhibition, and initiates its ubiquitin-dependent proteasomal degradation. Consistently, we now find that active oncogenic JAK2V617F reduces p27Kip1 stability and protein levels in patient-derived cell lines harboring the mutant JAK2V617F allele. Moreover, tyrosine phosphorylation of p27Kip1 is impaired and p27Kip1 expression is restored upon JAK2V617F inactivation by small hairpin RNA-mediated knockdown or by the pyridone-containing tetracycle JAK inhibitor-I, indicating that direct phosphorylation of p27Kip1 can contribute to hyperproliferation of JAK2V617F-transformed cells. Activation of endogenous JAK2 by interleukin-3 (IL-3) induces Y88 phosphorylation of p27Kip1, thus unveiling a novel link between cytokine signaling and cell cycle control in non-transformed cells. Oncogenic tyrosine kinases could use this novel pathway to promote hyperproliferation in tumor cells.
PMCID: PMC3160490  PMID: 21423214
cell cycle control; CDK inhibitors; p27Kip1; tyrosine kinases; JAK2; JAK2V617F
20.  Streptogramin- and tetracycline-responsive dual regulated expression of p27Kip1 sense and antisense enables positive and negative growth control of Chinese hamster ovary cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(4):e19.
We constructed a dual regulated expression vector cassette (pDuoRex) whereby two heterologous genes can be independently regulated via streptogramin- and tetracycline-responsive promoters. Two different constructs containing growth-promoting and growth-inhibiting genes were stably transfected in recombinant Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells that express the streptogramin- and tetracycline-dependent transactivators in a dicistronic configuration. An optimally balanced heterologous growth control scenario was achieved by reciprocal expression of the growth-inhibiting human cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1 in sense (p27Kip1S) and antisense (p27Kip1AS) orientation. Exclusive expression of p27Kip1S resulted in complete G1-phase-specific growth arrest, while expression of only p27Kip1AS showed significantly increased proliferation compared to control cultures (both antibiotics present), presumably by decreasing host cell p27Kip1 expression. In a second system, a derivative of pDuoRex encoding streptogramin-responsive expression of the growth-promoting SV40 small T antigen (sT) and tetracycline-regulated expression of p27Kip1 was stably transfected into CHO cells. Expression of sT alone resulted in an increase in cell proliferation, but the expression of p27Kip1 failed to provide the expected G1-specific growth arrest despite having demonstrated expression of the protein. This illustrates the difficulty in balancing the complex pathways underlying cell proliferation control through the expression of two functionally distinct genes involved in those pathways, and how a single-gene sense/antisense approach using pDuoRex can overcome this barrier to complete metabolic engineering control.
PMCID: PMC29626  PMID: 11160939
21.  Internal ribosome entry site-mediated translation of Smad5 in vivo: requirement for a nuclear event 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(13):2851-2861.
Smad5 is thought to relay signals of the bone morphogenetic protein pathway. The 5′ untranslated region (5′UTR) of human Smad5 mRNA is long, has the potential to form secondary structures and contains five AUG codons. Here we show that the 5′UTR of Smad5 contains an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) located within 100 nt of the 3′ end of the 5′UTR. The Smad5 IRES was 4–8-fold more active than the poliovirus IRES in C2C12 cells, which have osteoblastic differentiation ability, but was 5–10-fold less active than the poliovirus IRES in 293T cells. When an in vitro transcript of a dicistronic Smad5 IRES construct was transfected into C2C12 cells, the Smad5 IRES was not able to stimulate the translation of the downstream cistron, although the cap-dependent translation of the upstream cistron was efficient. In contrast, the poliovirus IRES in a dicistronic in vitro transcript was able to stimulate the translation of the downstream cistron to a similar extent as in the case of transfection of the corresponding dicistronic DNA construct. These results suggest that Smad5 IRES activity displays cell specificity and that some as yet unidentified nuclear event may be required for efficient Smad5 IRES-driven translation initiation.
PMCID: PMC117063  PMID: 12087169
22.  A new tumour suppression mechanism by p27Kip1: EGFR down-regulation mediated by JNK/c-Jun pathway inhibition 
Biochemical Journal  2014;463(Pt 3):383-392.
p27Kip1 is a potent inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases that drive G1-to-S cell-cycle transition. Reduced p27Kip1 expression is prevalent in a wide range of human tumours; however, the exact mechanism(s) of p27Kip1-mediated tumour suppression remains obscure. In the present study, we identified a close inverse relationship between p27Kip1 and EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) expression: the parental T24 human bladder cancer cells had high p27Kip1 expression but low EGFR expression and, in striking contrast, the metastatic derivative of T24 (T24T) had low p27Kip1 expression but high EGFR expression. This relationship was also found in various human cancer tissues, and was not only just correlative but also causal; depletion of p27Kip1 in MEF (mouse embryonic fibroblast) cells resulted in markedly elevated EGFR expression, a result reproducible with an Egfr promoter-luciferase reporter in both T24 and MEF cells, suggesting transcriptional repression of EGFR by p27Kip1. Indeed, p27Kip1 was found to regulate EGFR expression via the JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinase)/c-Jun transcription factor: p27Kip1 deficiency activated JNK/c-Jun, whereas inhibition of JNK/c-Jun by dominant-negative mutants dramatically repressed Egfr transcription. Furthermore, the proximal promoter of the Egfr gene was crucial for its transcription, where the recruiting activity of c-Jun was much greater in p27Kip1−/− cells than in p27Kip1+/+ cells. Introduction of GFP–p27Kip1 into T24T cells suppressed JNK/c-Jun activation, EGFR expression and anchorage-independent growth. The results of the present study demonstrate that p27Kip1 suppresses JNK/c-Jun activation and EGFR expression in MEFs and human bladder cancer cells, and the results obtained are consistent with those from human cancer specimens. The present study provides new insights into p27Kip1 suppression of cancer cell growth, migration and metastasis.
An inverse relationship between p27Kip1 and EGFR expression in parental T24 human bladder cancer cells and various human cancer tissues was found. Depletion of p27Kip1 in cells markedly elevated EGFR expression through transcriptional repression of Egfr by p27Kip1 via the JNK/c-Jun cascade.
PMCID: PMC4209780  PMID: 25121353
bladder cancer; c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/c-Jun pathway; epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR); p27Kip1; signal transduction pathway; AP-1, activator protein 1; BME, basal medium Eagle; CDK, cyclin-dependent kinase; DMEM, Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium; EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor; GAPDH, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase; HSF-1, heat-shock factor 1; Hsp, heat-shock protein; IHC, immunohistochemistry; JNK, c-Jun N-terminal kinase; MEF, mouse embryonic fibroblast; RT, reverse transcription; SP1, specificity protein 1
23.  SARS Coronavirus nsp1 Protein Induces Template-Dependent Endonucleolytic Cleavage of mRNAs: Viral mRNAs Are Resistant to nsp1-Induced RNA Cleavage 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(12):e1002433.
SARS coronavirus (SCoV) nonstructural protein (nsp) 1, a potent inhibitor of host gene expression, possesses a unique mode of action: it binds to 40S ribosomes to inactivate their translation functions and induces host mRNA degradation. Our previous study demonstrated that nsp1 induces RNA modification near the 5′-end of a reporter mRNA having a short 5′ untranslated region and RNA cleavage in the encephalomyocarditis virus internal ribosome entry site (IRES) region of a dicistronic RNA template, but not in those IRES elements from hepatitis C or cricket paralysis viruses. By using primarily cell-free, in vitro translation systems, the present study revealed that the nsp1 induced endonucleolytic RNA cleavage mainly near the 5′ untranslated region of capped mRNA templates. Experiments using dicistronic mRNAs carrying different IRESes showed that nsp1 induced endonucleolytic RNA cleavage within the ribosome loading region of type I and type II picornavirus IRES elements, but not that of classical swine fever virus IRES, which is characterized as a hepatitis C virus-like IRES. The nsp1-induced RNA cleavage of template mRNAs exhibited no apparent preference for a specific nucleotide sequence at the RNA cleavage sites. Remarkably, SCoV mRNAs, which have a 5′ cap structure and 3′ poly A tail like those of typical host mRNAs, were not susceptible to nsp1-mediated RNA cleavage and importantly, the presence of the 5′-end leader sequence protected the SCoV mRNAs from nsp1-induced endonucleolytic RNA cleavage. The escape of viral mRNAs from nsp1-induced RNA cleavage may be an important strategy by which the virus circumvents the action of nsp1 leading to the efficient accumulation of viral mRNAs and viral proteins during infection.
Author Summary
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SCoV) is the causative agent of SARS. The nsp1 protein of SCoV blocks host protein synthesis, including type I interferon, a general inhibitor of virus replication, in infected cells. This finding suggests that SCoV nsp1 protein plays a key role in the severe symptoms that accompany SARS infection. Nsp1 binds to the 40S ribosome subunit, which is an essential component for protein synthesis, and inactivates the translation activity of the ribosome. Furthermore, nsp1 binding to the 40S ribosome induces the modification of host mRNAs, leading to the accelerated decay of these RNAs in SCoV-infected cells. We found that the nature of nsp1-induced RNA modification was RNA cleavage and that nsp1 did not recognize specific nucleotides in host mRNAs to induce this cleavage. Interestingly, nsp1 did not induce RNA cleavage in SCoV mRNAs. These data indicate that nsp1 induces RNA cleavage of host mRNAs to suppress the expression of host genes, including those having antiviral functions; yet viral mRNAs are spared from such cleavage events, which, most likely, facilitate efficient SCoV protein synthesis and virus replication in infected cells.
PMCID: PMC3234236  PMID: 22174690
24.  p27Kip1 induces an accumulation of the repressor complexes of E2F and inhibits expression of the E2F-regulated genes. 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1997;8(9):1815-1827.
p27Kip1 is an inhibitor of the cyclin-dependent kinases and it plays an inhibitory role in the progression of cell cycle through G1 phase. To investigate the mechanism of cell cycle inhibition by p27Kip1, we constructed a cell line that inducibly expresses p27Kip1 upon addition of isopropyl-1-thio-beta-D-galactopyranoside in the culture medium. Isopropyl-1-thio-beta-D-galactopyranoside-induced expression of p27Kip1 in these cells causes a specific reduction in the expression of the E2F-regulated genes such as cyclin E, cyclin A, and dihydrofolate reductase. The reduction in the expression of these genes correlates with the p27Kip1-induced accumulation of the repressor complexes of the E2F family of factors (E2Fs). Our previous studies indicated that p21WAF1 could disrupt the interaction between cyclin/cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (cdk2) and the E2F repressor complexes E2F-p130 and E2F-p107. We show that p27Kip1, like p21WAF1, disrupts cyclin/cdk2-containing complexes of E2F-p130 leading to the accumulation of the E2F-p130 complexes, which is found in growth-arrested cells. In transient transfection assays, expression of p27Kip1 specifically inhibits transcription of a promoter containing E2F-binding sites. Mutants of p27Kip1 harboring changes in the cyclin- and cdk2-binding motifs are deficient in inhibiting transcription from the E2F sites containing reporter gene. Moreover, these mutants of p27Kip1 are also impaired in disrupting the interaction between cyclin/cdk2 and the repressor complexes of E2Fs. Taken together, these observations suggest that p27Kip1 reduces expression of the E2F-regulated genes by generating repressor complexes of E2Fs. Furthermore, the results also demonstrate that p27Kip1 inhibits expression of cyclin A and cyclin E, which are critical for progression through the G1-S phases.
PMCID: PMC305739  PMID: 9307976
25.  Functional analysis of the interaction between HCV 5'UTR and putative subunits of eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF3. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1998;26(13):3179-3187.
Translation initiation in Hepatitis C Virus is controlled by the presence of an internal ribosome entry site element (IRES) principally located in its 5' untranslated region (UTR). Mutation/deletion analyses have shown that the integrity of this structure is essential for initiation of cap-independent protein synthesis. We have developed a strategy to swap the position of the two major domains (II and III) on the 5'UTR sequence. The aim was to further characterize this mechanism by preserving domain-specific interactions but possibly losing contacts that require any interdomain geometry. The expression of dicistronic mRNAs containing these different UTRs showed that the positioning of the different domains on the 5'UTR is essential for efficient IRES functioning. We then used these mutants to identify cellular factors implicated in IRES activity. Using UV crosslinking assays we found that domain III makes direct contact with two proteins (p170/p120) which can be associated with efficient IRES activity. In particular, we have mapped the binding sites of these proteins and shown that p120 binds to the apical loop segment of domain III, whilst p170 binds in the stem portion, independently of domain III position or context. Finally, we provide evidence showing that p170 and p120 represent two subunits of eukaryotic initiation factor eIF3: p170 and p116/p110.
PMCID: PMC147697  PMID: 9628916

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