In-frame stop codons mark the termination of translation. However, post-termination ribosomes can reinitiate translation at downstream AUG codons. In mammals, reinitiation is most efficient when the termination codon is positioned close to the 5'-proximal initiation site and around 78 bases upstream of the reinitiation site. The phenomenon was studied mainly in the context of open reading frames (ORFs) found within the 5'-untranslated region, or polycicstronic viral mRNA. We hypothesized that reinitiation of translation following nonsense mutations within the main ORF of p53 can promote the expression of N-truncated p53 isoforms such as ∆40, ∆133 and ∆160p53. Here, we report that expression of all known N-truncated p53 isoforms by reinitiation is mechanistically feasible, including expression of the previously unidentified variant ∆66p53. Moreover, we found that significant reinitiation of translation can be promoted by nonsense mutations located even 126 codons downstream of the 5'-proximal initiation site, and observed when the reinitiation site is positioned between 6 and 243 bases downstream of the nonsense mutation. We also demonstrate that reinitiation can stabilise p53 mRNA transcripts with a premature termination codon, by allowing such transcripts to evade the nonsense mediated decay pathway. Our data suggest that the expression of N-truncated proteins from alleles carrying a premature termination codon is more prevalent than previously thought.
ASJC Scopus subject areas