Translation is best known as the fundamental mechanism by which the ribosome converts a sequence of nucleotides into a string of amino acids. Extensive research over many years has elucidated the key principles of translation, and the majority of translated regions were thought to be known. The recent discovery of wide-spread translation outside of annotated protein-coding open reading frames (ORFs) came therefore as a surprise, raising the intriguing possibility that these newly discovered translated regions might have unrecognized protein-coding or gene-regulatory functions. Here, we highlight recent findings that provide evidence that some of these newly discovered translated short ORFs (sORFs) encode functional, previously missed small proteins, while others have regulatory roles. Based on known examples we will also speculate about putative additional roles and the potentially much wider impact that these translated regions might have on cellular homeostasis and gene regulation.
Keywords: Ribosome; sORF; short proteins; translation; translational regulation; uORF.