The 2A protein of Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) acts as a switch to stimulate programmed -1 ribosomal frameshifting (PRF) during infection. Here, we present the X-ray crystal structure of TMEV 2A and define how it recognises the stimulatory RNA element. We demonstrate a critical role for bases upstream of the originally predicted stem-loop, providing evidence for a pseudoknot-like conformation and suggesting that the recognition of this pseudoknot by beta-shell proteins is a conserved feature in cardioviruses. Through examination of PRF in TMEV-infected cells by ribosome profiling, we identify a series of ribosomal pauses around the site of PRF induced by the 2A-pseudoknot complex. Careful normalisation of ribosomal profiling data with a 2A knockout virus facilitated the identification, through disome analysis, of ribosome stacking at the TMEV frameshifting signal. These experiments provide unparalleled detail of the molecular mechanisms underpinning Theilovirus protein-stimulated frameshifting.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.