Maize chlorotic mottle virus (MCMV) combines with a potyvirus in maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND), a serious emerging disease worldwide. To inform resistance strategies, we characterized the translation initiation mechanism of MCMV. We report that MCMV RNA contains a cap-independent translation element (CITE) in its 3′ untranslated region (UTR). The MCMV 3′ CITE (MTE) was mapped to nucleotides 4164 to 4333 in the genomic RNA. 2′-Hydroxyl acylation analyzed by primer extension (SHAPE) probing revealed that the MTE is a distinct variant of the panicum mosaic virus-like 3′ CITE (PTE). Like the PTE, electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) indicated that eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) binds the MTE despite the absence of an m7GpppN cap structure, which is normally required for eIF4E to bind RNA. Using a luciferase reporter system, mutagenesis to disrupt and restore base pairing revealed that the MTE interacts with the 5′ UTRs of both genomic RNA and subgenomic RNA1 via long-distance kissing stem-loop interaction to facilitate translation. The MTE stimulates a relatively low level of translation and has a weak, if any, pseudoknot, which is present in the most active PTEs, mainly because the MTE lacks the pyrimidine-rich tract that base pairs to a G-rich bulge to form the pseudoknot. However, most mutations designed to form a pseudoknot decreased translation activity. Mutations in the viral genome that reduced or restored translation prevented and restored virus replication, respectively, in maize protoplasts and in plants. In summary, the MTE differs from the canonical PTE but falls into a structurally related class of 3′ CITEs.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/wallen_miller/30/