To activate expression of a human transferrin(Tf)-encoding cDNA in Escherichia coli by translational coupling, it was placed in an expression plasmid downstream from a 5'-terminal fragment from the replicase(R)-encoding gene of bacteriophage MS2. The resulting construct was found to produce, besides the desired Tf, a protein with the mobility of a fusion product (RTf) of the N-terminal R fragment and Tf. Analysis of available mutants showed that this fusion results from + 1 ribosomal frameshifting at the end of the R reading frame. This region contains the sequence, CCC.UGA, suggesting that before termination occurs, tRNApro may dislodge from the CCC codon and reassociate with the + 1 triplet CCU. By further site-directed mutagenesis, we demonstrate that both the CCC codon and the termination codon are indeed required for the observed 2–4% frameshifting. When either triplet is changed, the frequency of frameshifting drops to 0.3% or less. These results classify CCC.UGA as a new ‘+ 1 shifty stop’.

Accuracy of translation, Heterologous gene expression, Shifty stop, Termination of translation, Transferrin,
Department of Clinical Chemistry

de Smit, M.H, van Duin, J, van Knippenberg, P.H, & van Eijk, H.G. (1994). CCC.UGA: A new site of ribosomal frameshifting in escherichia coli. Gene, 143(1), 43–47. doi:10.1016/0378-1119(94)90602-5