An infectious cDNA clone was constructed from the genome of coxsackievirus B1 strain. A number of RNA transcripts that have mutations in the 5' noncoding region were synthesized in vitro from the modified cDNA clones and examined for their abilities to act as mRNAs in a cell-free translation system prepared from HeLa S3 cells. RNAs that lack nucleotide sequences at positions 568 to 726 and 565 to 726 were found to be less efficient and inactive mRNAs, respectively. To understand the biological significance of this region of RNA, small deletions and point mutations were introduced in the nucleotide sequence between positions 538 and 601. Except for a nucleotide substitution at 592 (U → C) within the 7-base conserved sequence, mutations introduced in the sequence downstream of position 568 did not affect much, if any, of the ability of RNA to act as mRNA. Except for a point mutation at 558 (C → U), mutations upstream of position 567 appeared to inactivate the mRNA. In the upstream region, a sequence consisting of 21 nucleotides at positions 546 to 566 is perfectly conserved in the 5' noncoding regions of enterovirus and rhinovirus genomes. These results suggest that the 7-base conserved sequence functions to maintain the efficiency of translation initiation and that the nucleotide sequence upstream of position 567, including the 21-base conserved sequence, plays essential roles in translation initiation. A deletion mutant whose genome lacks the nucleotide sequence at positions 568 to 726 showed a small-plaque phenotype and less virulence against suckling mice than the wild-type virus. Thus, reduction of the efficiency of translation initiation may result in the construction of enteroviruses with the lower-virulence phenotype.
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