Selective stimulation of translation of leaderless mRNA by initiation factor 2: evolutionary implications for translation

The EMBO Journal
S GrillU Bläsi


Translation initiation in bacteria involves a stochastic binding mechanism in which the 30S ribosomal subunit first binds either to mRNA or to initiator tRNA, fMet-tRNA(f)(Met). Leaderless lambda cI mRNA did not form a binary complex with 30S ribosomes, which argues against the view that ribosomal recruitment signals other than a 5'-terminal start codon are essential for translation initiation of these mRNAs. We show that, in Escherichia coli, translation initiation factor 2 (IF2) selectively stimulates translation of lambda cI mRNA in vivo and in vitro. These experiments suggest that the start codon of leaderless mRNAs is recognized by a 30S-fMet-tRNA(f)(Met)-IF2 complex, an intermediate equivalent to that obligatorily formed during translation initiation in eukaryotes. We further show that leaderless lambda cI mRNA is faithfully translated in vitro in both archaebacterial and eukaryotic translation systems. This suggests that translation of leaderless mRNAs reflects a fundamental capability of the translational apparatus of all three domains of life and lends support to the hypothesis that the translation initiation pathway is universally conserved.


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