The efficiency of translation termination depends on the nature of the stop codon and the surrounding nucleotides. Some molecules, such as aminoglycoside antibiotics (gentamicin), decrease termination efficiency and are currently being evaluated for diseases caused by premature termination codons. However, the readthrough response to treatment is highly variable and little is known about the rules governing readthrough level and response to aminoglycosides. In this study, we carried out in-depth statistical analysis on a very large set of nonsense mutations to decipher the elements of nucleotide context responsible for modulating readthrough levels and gentamicin response. We quantified readthrough for 66 sequences containing a stop codon, in the presence and absence of gentamicin, in cultured mammalian cells. We demonstrated that the efficiency of readthrough after treatment is determined by the complex interplay between the stop codon and a larger sequence context. There was a strong positive correlation between basal and induced readthrough levels, and a weak negative correlation between basal readthrough level and gentamicin response (i.e. the factor of increase from basal to induced readthrough levels). The identity of the stop codon did not affect the response to gentamicin treatment. In agreement with a previous report, we confirm that the presence of a cytosine in +4 position promotes higher basal and gentamicin-induced readthrough than other nucleotides. We highlight for the first time that the presence of a uracil residue immediately upstream from the stop codon is a major determinant of the response to gentamicin. Moreover, this effect was mediated by the nucleotide itself, rather than by the amino-acid or tRNA corresponding to the −1 codon. Finally, we point out that a uracil at this position associated with a cytosine at +4 results in an optimal gentamicin-induced readthrough, which is the therapeutically relevant variable.
Nonsense mutations are single-nucleotide variations within the coding sequence of a gene that result in a premature termination codon. The presence of such mutations leads to the synthesis of a truncated protein unable to fulfill its normal function. Over the last ten years, treatment strategies have emerged based on the use of molecules, such as aminoglycoside antibiotics (gentamicin) that facilitate the readthrough of premature termination codons, thus restoring the synthesis of a full-length protein. Such strategies have been tested for various genetic diseases, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. The readthrough level depends on the nature of the stop codon and the surrounding nucleotide context, but little was known of the rules governing readthrough level and response to aminoglycosides. In this study, we use a large set of nonsense mutations for an in-depth statistical analysis designed to decipher the element of the nucleotide context responsible for modulating readthrough levels. We analyse the impact of the six nucleotides upstream and downstream from the stop codon. We demonstrate that the presence of a uracil residue immediately upstream the stop codon is associated with a stronger response to gentamicin treatment than the presence of any of the other three nucleotides.
In-frame stop codons normally signal termination during mRNA translation, but they can be read as ‘sense’ (readthrough) depending on their context, comprising the 6 nt preceding and following the stop codon. To identify novel contexts directing readthrough, under-represented 5′ and 3′ stop codon contexts from Saccharomyces cerevisiae were identified by genome-wide survey in silico. In contrast with the nucleotide bias 3′ of the stop codon, codon bias in the two codon positions 5′ of the termination codon showed no correlation with known effects on stop codon readthrough. However, individually, poor 5′ and 3′ context elements were equally as effective in promoting stop codon readthrough in vivo, readthrough which in both cases responded identically to changes in release factor concentration. A novel method analysing specific nucleotide combinations in the 3′ context region revealed positions +1,2,3,5 and +1,2,3,6 after the stop codon were most predictive of termination efficiency. Downstream of yeast open reading frames (ORFs), further in-frame stop codons were significantly over-represented at the +1, +2 and +3 codon positions after the ORF, acting to limit readthrough. Thus selection against stop codon readthrough is a dominant force acting on 3′, but not on 5′, nucleotides, with detectable selection on nucleotides as far downstream as +6 nucleotides. The approaches described can be employed to define potential readthrough contexts for any genome.
Two competing events, termination and readthrough (or nonsense suppression), can occur when a stop codon reaches the A-site of a translating ribosome. Translation termination results in hydrolysis of the final peptidyl-tRNA bond and release of the completed nascent polypeptide. Alternatively, readthrough, in which the stop codon is erroneously decoded by a suppressor or near cognate transfer RNA (tRNA), results in translation past the stop codon and production of a protein with a C-terminal extension. The relative frequency of termination versus readthrough is determined by parameters such as the stop codon nucleotide context, the activities of termination factors and the abundance of suppressor tRNAs. Using a sensitive and versatile readthrough assay in conjunction with RNA interference technology, we assessed the effects of depleting eukaryotic releases factors 1 and 3 (eRF1 and eRF3) on the termination reaction in human cell lines. Consistent with the established role of eRF1 in triggering peptidyl-tRNA hydrolysis, we found that depletion of eRF1 enhances readthrough at all three stop codons in 293 cells and HeLa cells. The role of eRF3 in eukarytotic translation termination is less well understood as its overexpression has been shown to have anti-suppressor effects in yeast but not mammalian systems. We found that depletion of eRF3 has little or no effect on readthrough in 293 cells but does increase readthrough at all three stop codons in HeLa cells. These results support a direct role for eRF3 in translation termination in higher eukaryotes and also highlight the potential for differences in the abundance or activity of termination factors to modulate the balance of termination to readthrough reactions in a cell-type-specific manner.
The nucleotide sequences surrounding termination codons influence the efficiency of translational readthrough. In this report, we examined the sequence requirement for efficient readthrough of the UGA codon in the Sindbis virus genomic RNA which regulates production of the putative viral RNA polymerase, nsP4. The UGA codon and its neighboring nucleotide sequences were subcloned into a heterologous coding context, and readthrough efficiency was measured by cell-free translation of RNA transcripts in rabbit reticulocyte lysates. The CUA codon immediately downstream of the UGA codon was found to be sufficient for efficient translational readthrough. Further mutagenesis of residues in the CUA triplet demonstrated that mutations at the second or third residues following the UGA codon (U and A, respectively) had little effect on readthrough efficiency. In contrast, replacement of the cytidine residue immediately downstream of the UGA codon with any of the other three nucleotides (U, A, or G) dramatically reduced the readthrough efficiency from approximately 10% to less than 1%. These results show that a simple sequence context can allow efficient readthrough of UGA codons in a mammalian translation system. Interestingly, compilation studies of nucleotide sequences surrounding eukaryotic termination codons indicate a strong bias against cytidine residues immediately 3' to UGA termination codons. Taken together with our results, this bias may reflect a selective pressure for efficient translation termination for most eukaryotic gene products.
Recent analysis of genomic signatures in mammals, flies, and worms indicates that functional translational stop codon readthrough is considerably more abundant in metazoa than previously recognized, but this analysis provides only limited clues about the function or mechanism of readthrough. If an mRNA known to be read through in one species is also read through in another, perhaps these questions can be studied in a simpler setting. With this end in mind, we have investigated whether some of the readthrough genes in human, fly, and worm also exhibit readthrough when expressed in S. cerevisiae. We found that readthrough was highest in a gene with a post-stop hexamer known to trigger readthrough, while other metazoan readthrough genes exhibit borderline readthrough in S. cerevisiae.
The nearest 5' context of 2559 human stop codons was analysed in comparison with the same context of stop-like codons (UGG, UGC, UGU, CGA for UGA; CAA, UAU, UAC for UAA; and UGG, UAU, UAC, CAG for UAG). The non-random distribution of some nucleotides upstream of the stop codons was observed. For instance, uridine is over-represented in position -3 upstream of UAG. Several codons were shown to be over-represented immediately upstream of the stop codons: UUU(Phe), AGC(Ser), and the Lys and Ala codon families before UGA; AAG(Lys), GCG(Ala), and the Ser and Leu codon families before UAA; and UCA(Ser), AUG(Met), and the Phe codon family before UAG. In contrast, the Thr and Gly codon families were under-represented before UGA, while ACC(Thr) and the Gly codon family were under-represented before UAG and UAA respectively. In an earlier study, uridine was shown to be over-represented in position -3 before UGA in Escherichia coli [Arkov,A.L., Korolev,S.V. and Kisselev,L.L. (1993) Nucleic Acids Res., 21,2891-2897]. In that study, the codons for Lys, Phe and Ser were shown to be over-represented immediately upstream of E. coli stop codons. Consequently, E. coli and human termination codons have similar 5' contexts. The present study suggests that the 5' context of stop codons may modulate the efficiency of peptide chain termination and (or) stop codon readthrough in higher eukaryotes, and that the mechanisms of such a modulation in prokaryotes and higher eukaryotes may be very similar.
Translation is most often terminated when a ribosome encounters the first in-frame stop codon (UAA, UAG or UGA) in an mRNA. However, many viruses (and some cellular mRNAs) contain “stop” codons that cause a proportion of ribosomes to terminate and others to incorporate an amino acid and continue to synthesize a “readthrough”, or C-terminally extended, protein. This dynamic redefinition of codon meaning is dependent on specific sequence context.
We describe two versatile dual reporter systems which facilitate investigation of stop codon readthrough in vivo in intact plants, and identification of the amino acid incorporated at the decoded stop codon. The first is based on the reporter enzymes NAN and GUS for which sensitive fluorogenic and histochemical substrates are available; the second on GST and GFP.
We show that the NAN-GUS system can be used for direct in planta measurements of readthrough efficiency following transient expression of reporter constructs in leaves, and moreover, that the system is sufficiently sensitive to permit measurement of readthrough in stably transformed plants. We further show that the GST-GFP system can be used to affinity purify readthrough products for mass spectrometric analysis and provide the first definitive evidence that tyrosine alone is specified in vivo by a ‘leaky’ UAG codon, and tyrosine and tryptophan, respectively, at decoded UAA, and UGA codons in the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) readthrough context.
It is known from experiments with bacteria and eukaryotic viruses that readthrough of termination codons located within the open reading frame (ORF) of mRNAs depends on the availability of suppressor tRNA(s) and the efficiency of termination in cells. Consequently, the yield of readthrough products can be used as a measure of the activity of polypeptide chain release factor(s) (RF), key components of the translation termination machinery. Readthrough of the UAG codon located at the end of the ORF encoding the coat protein of beet necrotic yellow vein furovirus is required for virus replication. Constructs harbouring this suppressible UAG codon and derivatives containing a UGA or UAA codon in place of the UAG codon have been used in translation experiments in vitro in the absence or presence of human suppressor tRNAs. Readthrough can be virtually abolished by addition of bacterially-expressed eukaryotic RF1 (eRF1). Thus, eRF1 is functional towards all three termination codons located in a natural mRNA and efficiently competes in vitro with endogenous and exogenous suppressor tRNA(s) at the ribosomal A site. These results are consistent with a crucial role of eRF1 in translation termination and forms the essence of an in vitro assay for RF activity based on the abolishment of readthrough by eRF1.
Translation termination in eukaryotes is mediated by the release factors eRF1 and eRF3, but mechanisms of the interplay between these factors are not fully understood, due partly to the difficulty of measuring termination on eukaryotic mRNAs. Here, we describe an in vitro system for the assay of termination using competition with programmed frameshifting at the recoding signal of mammalian antizyme. The efficiency of antizyme frameshifting in rabbit reticulocyte lysates was reduced by addition of recombinant rabbit eRF1 and eRF3 in a synergistic manner. Addition of suppressor tRNA to this assay system revealed competition with a third event, stop codon readthrough. Using these assays, we demonstrated that an eRF3 mutation at the GTPase domain repressed termination in a dominant negative fashion probably by binding to eRF1. The effect of the release factors and the suppressor tRNA showed that the stop codon at the antizyme frameshift site is relatively inefficient compared to either the natural termination signals at the end of protein coding sequences or the readthrough signal from a plant virus. The system affords a convenient assay for release factor activity and has provided some novel views of the mechanism of antizyme frameshifting.
rRNA plays a central role in protein synthesis and is intimately involved in the initiation, elongation, and termination stages of translation. However, the mode of its participation in these reactions, particularly as to the decoding of genetic information, remains elusive. In this paper, we describe a new approach that allowed us to identify an rRNA segment whose function is likely to be related to translation termination. By screening an expression library of random rRNA fragments, we identified a fragment of the Escherichia coli 23S rRNA (nucleotides 74 to 136) whose expression caused readthrough of UGA nonsense mutations in certain codon contexts in vivo. The antisense RNA fragment produced a similar effect, but in neither case was readthrough of UAA or UAG observed. Since termination at UGA in E. coli specifically requires release factor 2 (RF2), our data suggest that the fragments interfere with RF2-dependent termination.
Oocytes from Xenopus laevis were injected with purified amber (UAG), ochre (UAA), and opal (UGA) suppressor tRNAs from yeasts. The radioactively labeled proteins translated from the endogenous mRNAs were then separated on two-dimensional gels. All three termination codons are used in a single cell, the Xenopus laevis oocyte. But a surprisingly low number of readthrough polypeptides were observed from the 600 mRNAs studied in comparison to uninjected oocytes. The experimental data are compared with the conclusions obtained from the compilation of all available termination sequences on eukaryotic and prokaryotic mRNAs. This comparison indicates that the apparent resistance of natural termination codons against readthrough, as observed by the microinjection experiments, cannot be explained by tandem or very close second stop codons. Instead it suggests that specific context sequences around the termination codons may play a role in the efficiency of translation termination.
Retroviruses use unusual recoding strategies to synthesize the Gag-Pol polyprotein precursor of viral enzymes. In human immunodeficiency virus, ribosomes translating full-length viral RNA can shift back by 1 nucleotide at a specific site defined by the presence of both a slippery sequence and a downstream stimulatory element made of an extensive secondary structure. This so-called frameshift mechanism could become a target for the development of novel antiviral strategies. A different recoding strategy is used by other retroviruses, such as murine leukemia viruses, to synthesize the Gag-Pol precursor; in this case, a stop codon is suppressed in a readthrough process, again due to the presence of a specific structure adopted by the mRNA. Development of antiframeshift agents will greatly benefit from the availability of a simple animal and virus model. For this purpose, the murine leukemia virus readthrough region was rendered inactive by mutagenesis and the frameshift region of human immunodeficiency virus was inserted to generate a chimeric provirus. This substitution of readthrough by frameshift allows the synthesis of viral proteins, and the chimeric provirus sequence was found to generate infectious viruses. This system could be a most interesting alternative to study ribosomal frameshift in the context of a virus amenable to the use of a simple animal model.
We specifically sought genes within the yeast genome controlled by a non-conventional translation mechanism involving the stop codon. For this reason, we designed a computer program using the yeast database genomic regions, and seeking two adjacent open reading frames separated only by a unique stop codon (called SORFs). Among the 58 SORFs identified, eight displayed a stop codon bypass level ranging from 3 to 25%. For each of the eight sequences, we demonstrated the presence of a poly(A) mRNA. Using isogenic [PSI+] and [psi–] yeast strains, we showed that for two of the sequences the mechanism used is a bona fide readthrough. However, the six remaining sequences were not sensitive to the PSI state, indicating either a translation termination process independent of eRF3 or a new stop codon bypass mechanism. Our results demonstrate that the presence of a stop codon in a large ORF may not always correspond to a sequencing error, or a pseudogene, but can be a recoding signal in a functional gene. This emphasizes that genome annotation should take into account the fact that recoding signals could be more frequently used than previously expected.
eRF3 is a GTPase associated with eRF1 in a complex that mediates translation termination in eukaryotes. In mammals, two genes encode two distinct forms of eRF3, eRF3a and eRF3b, which differ in their N-terminal domains. Both bind eRF1 and stimulate its release activity in vitro. However, whether both proteins can function as termination factors in vivo has not been determined. In this study, we used short interfering RNAs to examine the effect of eRF3a and eRF3b depletion on translation termination efficiency in human cells. By measuring the readthrough at a premature nonsense codon in a reporter mRNA, we found that eRF3a silencing induced an important increase in readthrough whereas eRF3b silencing had no significant effect. We also found that eRF3a depletion reduced the intracellular level of eRF1 protein by affecting its stability. In addition, we showed that eRF3b overexpression alleviated the effect of eRF3a silencing on readthrough and on eRF1 cellular levels. These results suggest that eRF3a is the major factor acting in translation termination in mammals and clearly demonstrate that eRF3b can substitute for eRF3a in this function. Finally, our data indicate that the expression level of eRF3a controls the formation of the termination complex by modulating eRF1 protein stability.
Genomes of mammalian type C retroviruses contain a UAG termination codon between the gag and pol coding regions. The pol region is expressed in the form of a gag-pol fusion protein following readthrough suppression of the UAG codon. We have used oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis to change the UAG in Moloney murine leukemia virus to UAA or UGA. These alternate termination codons were also suppressed, both in infected cells and in reticulocyte lysates. Thus, the signal or context inducing suppression of UAG in wild-type Moloney murine leukemia virus is also effective with UAA and UGA. Further, mammalian cells and cell extracts contain tRNAs capable of translating UAA and UGA as amino acids. To our knowledge, this is the first example of natural suppression of UAA in higher eucaryotes.
'Nonstop' mutations are single base-pair substitutions that occur within translational termination (stop) codons and which can lead to the continued and inappropriate translation of the mRNA into the 3'-untranslated region. We have performed a meta-analysis of the 119 nonstop mutations (in 87 different genes) known to cause human inherited disease, examining the sequence context of the mutated stop codons and the average distance to the next alternative in-frame stop codon downstream, in comparison with their counterparts from control (non-mutated) gene sequences. A paucity of alternative in-frame stop codons was noted in the immediate vicinity (0-49 nucleotides downstream) of the mutated stop codons as compared with their control counterparts (p = 7.81 × 10-4). This implies that at least some nonstop mutations with alternative stop codons in close proximity will not have come to clinical attention, possibly because they will have given rise to stable mRNAs (not subject to nonstop mRNA decay) that are translatable into proteins of near-normal length and biological function. A significant excess of downstream in-frame stop codons was, however, noted in the range 150-199 nucleotides from the mutated stop codon (p = 8.55 × 10-4). We speculate that recruitment of an alternative stop codon at greater distance from the mutated stop codon may trigger nonstop mRNA decay, thereby decreasing the amount of protein product and yielding a readily discernible clinical phenotype. Confirmation or otherwise of this postulate must await the emergence of a clearer understanding of the mechanism of nonstop mRNA decay in mammalian cells.
human inherited disease; stop codon; 3'-untranslated region; nonstop mutation; nonstop mRNA decay
The nucleotide sequences 3' to the translational termination codons in a collection of human genes have been analysed for evidence of a preferred 3' context for natural UAG codons. The aim was to see whether human UAG contexts can be related to the recent demonstration of the effects of 3' context on nonsense suppression in human cells. Since mammalian genomes are known to consist of a patchwork of blocks of sequences or 'isochores' with different G+C contents, the collection of genes was split into 5 classes containing genes with similar frequencies of G+C at the 3rd position of synonymous codons. This analysis revealed that the frequency of bases 3' to UAG varies with the G+C frequency of the gene, and that these changes were mirrored by changes in the patterns of bases in GN and AGN strings. The identity of the next 3' base appears therefore to be determined by genome wide changes in G+C composition, rather than selection to maintain a particular tetranucleotide stop signal. These findings argue strongly that the failure to find bias in the patterns of bases used in human coding sequences is an insensitive guide for the existence of codon usage or codon context effects during translation in human cells.
Translation termination in eukaryotes is mediated by two release factors, eRF1 and eRF3. eRF1 recognizes each of the three stop codons (UAG, UAA, and UGA) and facilitates release of the nascent polypeptide chain. eRF3 is a GTPase that stimulates the translation termination process by a poorly characterized mechanism. In this study, we examined the functional importance of GTP hydrolysis by eRF3 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We found that mutations that reduced the rate of GTP hydrolysis also reduced the efficiency of translation termination at some termination signals but not others. As much as a 17-fold decrease in the termination efficiency was observed at some tetranucleotide termination signals (characterized by the stop codon and the first following nucleotide), while no effect was observed at other termination signals. To determine whether this stop signal-dependent decrease in the efficiency of translation termination was due to a defect in either eRF1 or eRF3 recycling, we reduced the level of eRF1 or eRF3 in cells by expressing them individually from the CUP1 promoter. We found that the limitation of either factor resulted in a general decrease in the efficiency of translation termination rather than a decrease at a subset of termination signals as observed with the eRF3 GTPase mutants. We also found that overproduction of eRF1 was unable to increase the efficiency of translation termination at any termination signals. Together, these results suggest that the GTPase activity of eRF3 is required to couple the recognition of translation termination signals by eRF1 to efficient polypeptide chain release.
Co-translational insertion of selenocysteine (Sec) into proteins in response to UGA codons is directed by selenocysteine insertion sequence (SECIS) elements. In known bacterial selenoprotein genes, SECIS elements are located in the coding regions immediately downstream of UGA codons. Here, we report that a distant SECIS element can also function in Sec insertion in bacteria provided that it is spatially close to the UGA codon. We expressed a mammalian phospholipid hydroperoxide glutathione peroxidase in Escherichia coli from a construct in which a natural E.coli SECIS element was located in the 3′-untranslated region (3′-UTR) and adjacent to a sequence complementary to the region downstream of the Sec UGA codon. Although the major readthrough event at the UGA codon was insertion of tryptophan, Sec was also incorporated and its insertion was dependent on the functional SECIS element in the UTR, base-pairing potential of the SECIS flanking region and the Sec UGA codon. These data provide important implications into evolution of SECIS elements and development of a system for heterologous expression of selenoproteins and show that in addition to the primary sequence arrangement between UGA codons and SECIS elements, their proximity within the tertiary structure can support Sec insertion in bacteria.
The APC tumor suppressor gene is frequently mutated in human colorectal cancer, with nonsense mutations accounting for 30% of all mutations in this gene. Reintroduction of the WT APC gene into cancer cells generally reduces tumorigenicity or induces apoptosis. In this study, we explored the possibility of using drugs to induce premature termination codon (PTC) readthrough (aminoglycosides, negamycin), as a means of reactivating endogenous APC. By quantifying the readthrough of 11 nonsense mutations in APC, we were able to identify those giving the highest levels of readthrough after treatment. For these mutations, we demonstrated that aminoglycoside or negamycin treatment led to a recovery of the biological activity of APC in cancer cell lines, and showed that the level of APC activity was proportional to the level of induced readthrough. These findings show that treatment with readthrough inducers should be considered as a potential strategy for treating cancers caused by nonsense mutations APC gene. They also provide a rational basis for identifying mutations responsive to readthrough inducers.
Termination of translation in eukaryotes is controlled by two interacting polypeptide chain release factors, eRFl and eRF3. eRFl recognizes nonsense codons UAA, UAG and UGA, while eRF3 stimulates polypeptide release from the ribosome in a GTP- and eRFl – dependent manner. Recent studies has shown that proteins interacting with these release factors can modulate the efficiency of nonsense codon readthrough.
We have isolated a nonessential yeast gene, which causes suppression of nonsense mutations, being in a multicopy state. This gene encodes a protein designated Itt1p, possessing a zinc finger domain characteristic of the TRIAD proteins of higher eukaryotes. Overexpression of Itt1p decreases the efficiency of translation termination, resulting in the readthrough of all three types of nonsense codons. Itt1p interacts in vitro with both eRFl and eRF3. Overexpression of eRFl, but not of eRF3, abolishes the nonsense suppressor effect of overexpressed Itt1p.
The data obtained demonstrate that Itt1p can modulate the efficiency of translation termination in yeast. This protein possesses a zinc finger domain characteristic of the TRIAD proteins of higher eukaryotes, and this is a first observation of such protein being involved in translation.
In the C. albicans retrotransposon Tca2, the gag and pol ORFs are separated by a UGA stop codon, 3' of which is a potential RNA pseudoknot. It is unclear how the Tca2 gag UGA codon is bypassed to allow pol expression. However, in other retroelements, translational readthrough of the gag stop codon can be directed by its flanking sequence, including a 3' pseudoknot.
The hypothesis was tested that in Tca2, gag stop codon flanking sequences direct translational readthrough and synthesis of a gag-pol fusion protein. Sequence from the Tca2 gag-UGA-pol junction (300 nt) was inserted between fused lacZ and luciferase (luc) genes in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae dual reporter construct. Although downstream of UGA, luc was expressed, but its expression was unaffected by inserting additional stop codons at the 3' end of lacZ. Luc expression was instead being driven by a previously unknown minor promoter activity within the gag-pol junction region. Evidence together indicated that junction sequence alone cannot direct UGA readthrough. Using reporter genes in C. albicans, the activities of this gag-pol junction promoter and the Tca2 long terminal repeat (LTR) promoter were compared. Of the two promoters, only the LTR promoter was induced by heat-shock, which also triggers retrotransposition. Tca2 pol protein, epitope-tagged in C. albicans to allow detection, was also heat-shock induced, indicating that pol proteins were expressed from a gag-UGA-pol RNA.
This is the first demonstration that the LTR promoter directs Tca2 pol protein expression, and that pol proteins are translated from a gag-pol RNA, which thus requires a mechanism for stop codon bypass. However, in contrast to most other retroelement and viral readthrough signals, immediate gag UGA-flanking sequences were insufficient to direct stop readthrough in S. cerevisiae, indicating non-canonical mechanisms direct gag UGA bypass in Tca2.
The 5' context of 671 Escherichia coli stop codons UGA and UAA has been compared with the context of stop-like codons (UAC, UAU and CAA for UAA; UGG, UGC, UGU and CGA for UGA). We have observed highly significant deviations from the expected nucleotide distribution: adenine is over-represented whereas pyrimidines are under-represented in position -2 upstream from UAA. Uridine is over-represented in position -3 upstream from UGA. Lysine codons are preferable immediately prior to UAA. A complete set of codons for serine and the phenylalanine UUC codon are preferable immediately 5' to UGA. This non-random codon distribution before stop codons could be considered as a molecular device for modulation of translation termination. We have found that certain fragment of E. coli release factor 2 (RF2) (amino acids 93-114) is similar to the amino acid sequences of seryl-tRNA synthetase (positions 10-19 and 80-93) and of beta (small) subunit (positions 72-94) of phenylalanyl-tRNA synthetase from E. coli. Three-dimensional structure of E. coli seryl-tRNA synthetase is known : Its N-terminus represents an antiparallel alpha-helical coiled-coil domain and contains a region homologous to RF2. On the basis of the above-mentioned results we assume that a specific interaction between RF2 and the last peptidyl-tRNA(Ser/Phe) occurs during polypeptide chain termination in prokaryotic ribosomes.
Translation termination in eukaryotes typically requires the decoding of one of three stop codons UAA, UAG or UGA by the eukaryotic release factor eRF1. The molecular mechanisms that allow eRF1 to decode either A or G in the second nucleotide, but to exclude UGG as a stop codon, are currently not well understood. Several models of stop codon recognition have been developed on the basis of evidence from mutagenesis studies, as well as studies on the evolutionary sequence conservation of eRF1. We show here that point mutants of Saccharomyces cerevisiae eRF1 display significant variability in their stop codon read-through phenotypes depending on the background genotype of the strain used, and that evolutionary conservation of amino acids in eRF1 is only a poor indicator of the functional importance of individual residues in translation termination. We further show that many phenotypes associated with eRF1 mutants are quantitatively unlinked with translation termination defects, suggesting that the evolutionary history of eRF1 was shaped by a complex set of molecular functions in addition to translation termination. We reassess current models of stop-codon recognition by eRF1 in the light of these new data.
Redefinition of UAG, UAA and UGA to specify a standard amino acid occurs in response to recoding signals present in a minority of mRNAs. This ‘read-through’ is in competition with termination and is utilized for gene expression. One of the recoding signals known to stimulate read-through is a hexanucleotide sequence of the form CARYYA 3′ adjacent to the stop codon. The present work finds that of the 91 unique viral sequences annotated as read-through, 90% had one of six of the 64 possible codons immediately 3′ of the read-through stop codon. The relative efficiency of these read-through contexts in mammalian tissue culture cells has been determined using a dual luciferase fusion reporter. The relative importance of the identity of several individual nucleotides in the different hexanucleotides is complex.