Conserved functional domains and a novel tertiary interaction near the pseudoknot drive translational activity of hepatitis C virus and hepatitis C virus-like internal ribosome entry sites

Nucleic Acids Res. 2009 Sep;37(16):5537-49. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkp588. Epub 2009 Jul 13.


The translational activity of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) internal ribosome entry site (IRES) and other HCV-like IRES RNAs depends on structured RNA elements in domains II and III, which serve to recruit the ribosomal 40S subunit, eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 3 and the ternary eIF2/Met-tRNA(i)(Met)/GTP complex and subsequently domain II assists subunit joining. Porcine teschovirus-1 talfan (PTV-1) is a member of the Picornaviridae family, with a predicted HCV-like secondary structure, but only stem-loops IIId and IIIe in the 40S-binding domain display significant sequence conservation with the HCV IRES. Here, we use chemical probing to show that interaction sites with the 40S subunit and eIF3 are conserved between HCV and HCV-like IRESs. In addition, we reveal the functional role of a strictly conserved co-variation between a purine-purine mismatch near the pseudoknot (A-A/G) and the loop sequence of domain IIIe (GAU/CA). These nucleotides are involved in a tertiary interaction, which serves to stabilize the pseudoknot structure and correlates with translational efficiency in both the PTV-1 and HCV IRES. Our data demonstrate conservation of functional domains in HCV and HCV-like IRESs including a more complex structure surrounding the pseudoknot than previously assumed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions*
  • Base Sequence
  • Hepacivirus / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry*
  • Ribosome Subunits, Small, Eukaryotic / chemistry
  • Teschovirus / genetics*


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • RNA, Viral