Repository logo

Programmed -2/-1 Ribosomal Frameshifting in Simarteriviruses: an Evolutionarily Conserved Mechanism.

Accepted version



Change log


Li, Yanhua 
Brierley, Ian 
Cai, Yingyun 
Napthine, Sawsan 


The -2/-1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting (-2/-1 PRF) mechanism in porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) leads to the translation of two additional viral proteins, nonstructural protein 2TF (nsp2TF) and nsp2N. This -2/-1 PRF mechanism is transactivated by a viral protein, nsp1β, and cellular poly(rC) binding proteins (PCBPs). Critical elements for -2/-1 PRF, including a slippery sequence and a downstream C-rich motif, were also identified in 11 simarteriviruses. However, the slippery sequences (XXXUCUCU instead of XXXUUUUU) in seven simarteriviruses can only facilitate -2 PRF to generate nsp2TF. The nsp1β of simian hemorrhagic fever virus (SHFV) was identified as a key factor that transactivates both -2 and -1 PRF, and the universally conserved Tyr111 and Arg114 in nsp1β are essential for this activity. In vitro translation experiments demonstrated the involvement of PCBPs in simarterivirus -2/-1 PRF. Using SHFV reverse genetics, we confirmed critical roles of nsp1β, slippery sequence, and C-rich motif in -2/-1 PRF in SHFV-infected cells. Attenuated virus growth ability was observed in SHFV mutants with impaired expression of nsp2TF and nsp2N. Comparative genomic sequence analysis showed that key elements of -2/-1 PRF are highly conserved in all known arteriviruses except equine arteritis virus (EAV) and wobbly possum disease virus (WPDV). Furthermore, -2/-1 PRF with SHFV PRF signal RNA can be stimulated by heterotypic nsp1βs of all non-EAV arteriviruses tested. Taken together, these data suggest that -2/-1 PRF is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism employed in non-EAV/-WPDV arteriviruses for the expression of additional viral proteins that are important for viral replication.IMPORTANCE Simarteriviruses are a group of arteriviruses infecting nonhuman primates, and a number of new species have been established in recent years. Although these arteriviruses are widely distributed among African nonhuman primates of different species, and some of them cause lethal hemorrhagic fever disease, this group of viruses has been undercharacterized. Since wild nonhuman primates are historically important sources or reservoirs of human pathogens, there is concern that simarteriviruses may be preemergent zoonotic pathogens. Thus, molecular characterization of simarteriviruses is becoming a priority in arterivirology. In this study, we demonstrated that an evolutionarily conserved ribosomal frameshifting mechanism is used by simarteriviruses and other distantly related arteriviruses for the expression of additional viral proteins. This mechanism is unprecedented in eukaryotic systems. Given the crucial role of ribosome function in all living systems, the potential impact of the in-depth characterization of this novel mechanism reaches beyond the field of virology.



arterivirus, simarterivirus, −2/−1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting, Amino Acid Motifs, Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Arterivirus, Biological Evolution, Cell Line, Frameshifting, Ribosomal, Gene Expression, Models, Molecular, Porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome virus, Protein Conformation, Structure-Activity Relationship, Viral Nonstructural Proteins, Virus Replication

Journal Title

J Virol

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



American Society for Microbiology


All rights reserved
Wellcome Trust (106207/Z/14/Z)
European Research Council (646891)