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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 984028, 15 pages
Research Article

A Genome-Wide Analysis of RNA Pseudoknots That Stimulate Efficient −1 Ribosomal Frameshifting or Readthrough in Animal Viruses

1Department of Computer Science, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
2Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901, USA

Received 8 April 2013; Accepted 21 August 2013

Academic Editor: Marcelo A. Soares

Copyright © 2013 Xiaolan Huang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Programmed −1 ribosomal frameshifting (PRF) and stop codon readthrough are two translational recoding mechanisms utilized by some RNA viruses to express their structural and enzymatic proteins at a defined ratio. Efficient recoding usually requires an RNA pseudoknot located several nucleotides downstream from the recoding site. To assess the strategic importance of the recoding pseudoknots, we have carried out a large scale genome-wide analysis in which we used an in-house developed program to detect all possible H-type pseudoknots within the genomic mRNAs of 81 animal viruses. Pseudoknots are detected downstream from ~85% of the recoding sites, including many previously unknown pseudoknots. ~78% of the recoding pseudoknots are the most stable pseudoknot within the viral genomes. However, they are not as strong as some designed pseudoknots that exhibit roadblocking effect on the translating ribosome. Strong roadblocking pseudoknots are not detected within the viral genomes. These results indicate that the decoding pseudoknots have evolved to possess optimal stability for efficient recoding. We also found that the sequence at the gag-pol frameshift junction of HIV1 harbors potential elaborated pseudoknots encompassing the frameshift site. A novel mechanism is proposed for possible involvement of the elaborated pseudoknots in the HIV1 PRF event.