How viruses reprogram cells to decode the genetic code. We investigate the plethora of tricks by which viral messenger RNA usurps and controls the host protein synthesis machinery (translation factors and ribosomes). We focus on the structures of viral RNA sequences that recruit host translation factors in the absence of the normally required “5’ cap” structure. We also employ genomics techniques to examine the effect of this virus takeover on translation of plant mRNAs. This research provides a better understanding of protein synthesis mechanisms and how the genetic code in nucleic acids is converted to amino acid sequence in functional proteins. Who cares? This knowledge has revealed a new strategy to breed disease-resistant crops that disrupt virus translation, and this knowledge may allow us to modify viral sequences to regulate gene expression in beneficial ways, ranging from synthesis of valuable proteins in plants, to design of potential new anticancer drugs.
Funding Organization: National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and the Plant Sciences Institute, Iowa State University
Award Number: 5R01GM067104-11