Translation initiation by internal ribosome binding is a recently discovered mechanism of eukaryotic viral and cellular protein synthesis in which ribosome subunits interact with the mRNAs at internal sites in the 5' untranslated RNA sequences and not with the 5' methylguanosine cap structure present at the extreme 5' ends of mRNA molecules. Uncapped poliovirus mRNAs harbor internal ribosome entry sites (IRES) in their long and highly structured 5' noncoding regions. Such IRES sequences are required for viral protein synthesis. In this study, a novel poliovirus was isolated whose genomic RNA contains two gross deletions removing approximately 100 nucleotides from the predicted IRES sequences within the 5' noncoding region. The deletions originated from previously in vivo-selected viral revertants displaying non-temperature-sensitive phenotypes. Each revertant had a different predicted stem-loop structure within the 5' noncoding region of their genomic RNAs deleted. The mutant poliovirus (Se1-5NC-delta DG) described in this study contains both stem-loop deletions in a single RNA genome, thereby creating a minimum IRES. Se1-5NC-delta DG exhibited slow growth and a pinpoint plaque phenotype following infection of HeLa cells, delayed onset of protein synthesis in vivo, and defective initiation during in vitro translation of the mutated poliovirus mRNAs. Interestingly, the peak levels of viral RNA synthesis in cells infected with Se1-5NC-delta DG occurred at slightly later times in infection than those achieved by wild-type poliovirus, but these mutant virus RNAs accumulated in the host cells during the late phases of virus infection. UV cross-linking assays with the 5' noncoding regions of wild-type and mutated RNAs were carried out in cytoplasmic extracts from HeLa cells and neuronal cells and in reticulocyte lysates to identify the cellular factors that interact with the putative IRES elements. The cellular proteins that were cross-linked to the minimum IRES may represent factors playing an essential role in internal translation initiation of poliovirus mRNAs
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