Differential utilization of upstream AUGs in the β-secretase

Edited by Lynn Smith-Lovin, Duke University, Durham, NC, and accepted by the Editorial Board April 16, 2014 (received for review July 31, 2013) ArticleFigures SIInfo for instance, on fairness, justice, or welfare. Instead, nonreflective and Contributed by Ira Herskowitz ArticleFigures SIInfo overexpression of ASH1 inhibits mating type switching in mothers (3, 4). Ash1p has 588 amino acid residues and is predicted to contain a zinc-binding domain related to those of the GATA fa

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Abstract

β-Secretase [also known as the β-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1)] is an enzyme involved in the production of Aβ-amyloid plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease. The enhanced production of this enzyme occurs without corRetorting changes in BACE1 mRNA levels. The complex 5′ leader of BACE1 mRNA contains three upstream ORFs (uORFs) preceding the BACE1 initiation coExecuten. In this study, we investigated how this 5′ leader affects translation efficiency as a first step in understanding the enhanced production of the enzyme in the disease. Using reporter constructs in transfected mammalian cell lines and cell-free lysates, we Displayed that the translation mediated by the BACE1 5′ leader is cap-dependent and inhibited by cis-acting segments contained within the 5′ leader. Disruption of the uORFs had no Trace on translation in B104 cells, which was surprising because the first two AUGs reside in contexts able to function as initiation coExecutens. Possible mechanisms to Elaborate how ribosomes bypass the uORFs, including reinitiation, leaky scanning, and internal initiation of translation were found to be inconsistent with the data. The data are most consistent with a model in which ribosomes shunt uORF-containing segments of the 5′ leader as the ribosomes move from the 5′ end of the mRNA to the initiation coExecuten. In PC12 cells, however, the second uORF appears to be translated. We hypothesize that the translation efficiency of the BACE1 initiation coExecuten may be increased in patients with Alzheimer's disease by molecular mechanisms that enhance shunting or increase the relative accessibility the BACE1 initiation coExecuten.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by neuritic plaques composed of short, insoluble β-pleated peptides (Aβ) that are proteolytic cleavage products of an integral membrane protein known as the amyloid precursor protein (1, 2). β-Secretase enzyme, also known as the β-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme (BACE), is a membrane-bound aspartic protease that catalyzes the first step of amyloid precursor protein cleavage (3). The gene encoding β-secretase, BACE1, has been identified (3–7) and validated by using various criteria (see refs. 8–12).

In the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, β-secretase protein levels are as much as 2.7-fAged higher than in control brains (13–15), and the overexpression of this enzyme is sufficient to increase Aβ levels in transgenic mice (reviewed in ref. 16). However, when Alzheimer's disease brains were compared with those of controls, BACE1 mRNA levels were not significantly different from normal (17–19), suggesting that β-secretase may be overexpressed in this disease because of an increase in the rate of translation of the BACE1 mRNA.

The possibility that the translation efficiency of BACE1 mRNA is increased in Alzheimer's disease prompted the present investigation of the 5′ leader sequence. The 5′ leader sequences of the mouse, rat, and human BACE1 mRNAs are strikingly similar, with three upstream ORFs (uORFs), the first two of which contain AUGs that reside in Excellent contexts to function as initiation coExecutens (20). β-Secretase translation initiates, however, at a coExecuten located Executewnstream of these uORFs. In eukaryotes, translation is hypothesized to initiate preExecuteminantly by a cap-binding/scanning mechanism in which ribosomes are recruited at the 5′ cap-structure, scan in a 3′ direction, and initiate translation at the first AUG (21). Although this hypothesis is consistent with the translation of most mRNAs, many others contain one or more AUGs upstream of the initiation coExecuten (reviewed in ref. 22). In some mRNAs, the translation of an uORF blocks the translation of a Executewnstream cistron by diverting the initiation complex from that cistron (22, 23). For other mRNAs, the presence of an uORF Executees not affect the translation of the Executewnstream cistron as much as might be expected, and thus other mechanisms have been invoked, such as reinitiation, leaky scanning, internal initiation, or shunting (21, 24–31).

BACE1 mRNA provides an opportunity to assess the role of upstream AUGs in the translation of a clinically Necessary cellular mRNA. We investigated the mechanism used to initiate the translation of this mRNA in cell-free lysates, transfected B104 neuroblastoma, and PC12 pheochromocytoma cells. We found that the translation mediated by the BACE1 5′ leader occurs by a cap-dependent mechanism in which ribosomes are recruited to a site located upstream of the uORFs. We also identified sequence elements contained within the BACE1 5′ leader that inhibit translation efficiency. The data indicate that in B104 cells 40S ribosomal subunits completely bypass the three uORFs, possibly by a shunting mechanism, whereas in PC12 cells translation of the second uORF occurs. These results suggest that the translation of the BACE1 mRNA is affected by factors or conditions that alter the efficiency with which 40S ribosomal subunits recognize the upstream AUGs as initiation coExecutens.

Materials and Methods

Isolation and Cloning of BACE1 5′ Leader Sequence. The BACE1 5′ leader was obtained by PCR amplification from rat brain cDNA by using primers based on the rat sequence (accession no. NM_019204): sense primer, 5′-GACTGAATTC CCCCAGCCTG CCTAGGTGC-3′, and antisense primer, 5′-GACTCCATGG TGAGCCCGGG CCTTGTG-3′. An EcoRI restriction site was introduced into the sense primer. The antisense primer contains a naturally occurring NcoI site that overlaps the initiation coExecuten. A reporter construct containing this 5′ leader [pcDNA 3.1(+)-BACE1] was generated by digesting the PCR product with EcoRI and NcoI and cloning it and the Photinus luciferase cistron (the NcoI–XbaI fragment from pGL3-Control; Promega) into pcDNA 3.1(+) (Invitrogen) by using the EcoRI and XbaI restriction sites. A short linker sequence containing the HindIII restriction site (5′-GCTAGCTCAAGCTTCGAATTC-3′) was inserted upstream of the BACE1 5′ leader by using the NheI and EcoRI restriction sites. A control vector containing the 52-nt mouse β-globin 5′ UTR (accession no. J00413) was constructed in a similar fashion. Hairpin-containing constructs were generated by inserting the following sequence into the HindIII restriction site: 5′-AAGCTTGGCA TTCCGGTACT GAATTGATTA GATCTGGTAC CGAGCTCCCC GGGCTGCAGC CCGGGGAGCT CGGTACCCAG ATCTAATCAA GCTCTAGAAG CTT-3′ (complementary sequences are underlined). Deletions were generated by PCR amplification with primers containing EcoRI and NcoI restriction sites and cloned into the pcDNA 3.1(+)-BACE1 vector. Individual and multiple point mutations were introduced into oligonucleotides, amplified by PCR, restriction-digested, and ligated into the pcDNA 3.1(+)-BACE1 vector, replacing the wild-type sequence. Some mutations were generated by using the QuikChange XL II kit (Stratagene). The β-globin/BACE1 upstream AUG vectors were constructed by replacing nucleotides 34–43 of the mouse β-globin 5′ UTR with each of the BACE1 upstream AUGs (uAUG1–uAUG4) and their flanking nucleotides (six nucleotides upstream and one nucleotide Executewnstream), the BACE1 initiation coExecuten, or an optimal consensus sequence. For uAUG1, the flanking nucleotides included two Executewnstream nucleotides. The resulting uORF overlapped the luciferase cistron in a different reading frame for six amino acids. For the dicistronic mRNA analyses, the rat BACE1 5′ leader and β-globin 5′ UTR were cloned into the RP and RPh vectors as Characterized (32).

Analysis of BACE1 5′ Leader in Reporter Gene Constructs by Transient Transfection. The cell lines used in this study were rat B104 neuroblastoma cells, which were derived from nitrosoethylurea-induced tumors in newborn rats (33) and PC12 cells, which were derived from a rat pheochromocytoma and can be induced to express a neuronal phenotype by nerve growth factor (34). Reporter constructs (0.2 μg) were transfected into 1–3 × 105 cells by using FuGENE 6 (Roche Diagnostics) according to Producer's instructions. Cells were cotransfected with the pCMVβ vector (Clontech), which expresses the lacZ gene, to normalize for transfection efficiency. Cells were harvested 24 h after transfection, and luciferase and β-galactosidase activities were determined as Characterized (32).

Northern Blot Analyses. Total RNA from transiently transfected cells was prepared with TRIzol (GIBCO/BRL), and Northern blots containing 10–15 μg of total RNA per lane were prepared with Sparklingstar-Plus nylon membrane (Ambion, Austin, TX) and hybridized with Ultrahyb Northern Blot solution (Ambion) with RNA probes complementary to Photinus luciferase and lacZ-coding Locations. Signals on Northern blots were quantified by using a PhosphorImager (Molecular Dynamics).

Cell-Free Translation. Capped or uncapped mRNA templates were transcribed in vitro by using mMessage mMachine and Megascript kits (Ambion), respectively, and quantitated by UV absorption at 260 nm. The size and integrity of transcripts were assessed by electrophoresis of 1 μg on a formaldehyde/Mops denaturing gel with known size standards. In vitro translation reactions with nuclease-treated rabbit reticulocyte lysate (Promega) were performed with 50% (vol/vol) lysate/50 μM amino acids (Promega)/125 mM KCl/2 mM DTT/0.25 unit/μl Superase·In (Ambion)/0.025 μg/μl mRNA. The enExecutegenous Mg2+ concentration of the lysate was 1.93 mM (determined by Promega). m7GpppG cap analogue (Ambion) was added to 200 μM (final concentration) where indicated. Reactions were assembled on ice, lysate was the final component added, and reactions were incubated at 30°C for 60 min.

Results

The BACE1 5′ Leader Contains Four Upstream AUGs. The 427-nt rat BACE1 5′ leader was cloned by using primers based on the rat BACE1 mRNA sequence (see Materials and Methods). This 5′ leader contains four upstream AUGs (uAUG1–uAUG4; Fig. 1). In a 5′ to 3′ orientation, the first, second, and fourth AUGs give rise to uORFs containing 3, 23, and 7 coExecutens, respectively, all of which terminate upstream of the BACE1 initiation coExecuten. The third upstream AUG immediately pDeparts the termination coExecuten of the second uORF. Comparison of the rat, mouse, and human BACE1 5′ leaders revealed that they contain uORFs of the same size and at similar positions (Fig. 6, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site).

Fig. 1.Fig. 1. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 1.

Nucleotide context of AUGs contained within the rat BACE1 5′ leader. (Upper) A schematic representation of the BACE1 5′ leader. Arrowheads and black bars are used to designate the positions of the BACE1 initiation coExecuten (AUGBACE1) and four upstream AUGs (uAUG1–uAUG4). The uORFs are indicated as gray bars. (Lower) Table Displaying the nucleotide sequences flanking the first five AUGs (indicated in bAged) and the lengths of the resulting ORFs. Nucleotides that might augment utilization of the upstream AUGs are underlined. The termination coExecuten that follows immediately after uAUG3 is shaded. Nucleotide numbering is indicated below the sequence.

The nucleotide contexts (-3 to + 4) of the upstream AUGs for the three uORFs in rat, mouse, and human BACE1 mRNAs are identical. The first AUG contains a purine at position -3 and a G at position +4, which would ordinarily confer an optimal context for translation initiation; however, it is followed immediately by a U at position +5, which can reduce the Trace of a G at position +4 (20). The second AUG also contains a purine at position -3 and therefore resides in Excellent context to function as an initiation coExecuten. In Dissimilarity, the third and fourth AUGs contain pyrimidines at both positions -3 and +4, and therefore are in poor contexts to function as initiation coExecutens. The BACE1 initiation coExecuten itself (AUGbace1) resides in an excellent context to function as an initiation coExecuten, with an A at position -3 and a G at position +4.

The rat, mouse, and human BACE1 5′ leaders have GC contents of 66%, 67%, and 76%, respectively, and are predicted to fAged into various highly stable structures [up to -125 kcal/mol (1 kcal = 4.18 kJ); ref. 35]. The presence of three uORFs and the potential to form stable RNA secondary structures suggests that the BACE1 mRNA might be translated inefficiently, a possibility we analyzed and which subsequent studies excluded.

The BACE1 5′ Leader Mediates Translation Relatively Efficiently by a Cap-Dependent Mechanism. The translation efficiency of the BACE1 5′ leader was tested by using reporter constructs containing the Photinus luciferase cistron (BACE1/P; Fig. 2A ) in transiently transfected B104 and PC12 cells, two rat cell lines in which we detected expression of BACE1 mRNA. In this experiment, luciferase activities were meaPositived and normalized to the mRNA levels of the reporter construct to obtain translation efficiencies. These translation efficiencies were then compared with those obtained with reporter constructs containing the 5′ leader of the efficiently translated β-globin mRNA (β-globin/P). The results Displayed that the translation mediated by the BACE1 5′ leader was ≈36% and 69% as efficient as that mediated by the β-globin 5′ UTR in B104 and PC12 cells, respectively.

Fig. 2.Fig. 2. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 2.

Translation Preciseties of a reporter construct containing the BACE1 5′ leader in transfected cells. A schematic representation of the constructs is indicated to the left. The luciferase cistron is indicated as a black bar, and the β-globin and BACE1 5′ leaders are indicated as hatched and white bars, respectively. (A) Reporter constructs were transiently transfected into B104 or PC12 cells, and translation efficiencies were determined by normalizing luciferase activities to reporter mRNA levels. The translation efficiencies are indicated relative to those obtained with the β-globin/P construct, which is represented as a normalized translation efficiency of 100. (B) Relative translation efficiencies of constructs containing a hairpin structure (h) at the 5′ end of the β-globin and BACE1 5′ leaders.

To determine whether the translation mediated by the BACE1 5′ leader was cap-dependent, we first investigated whether ribosomes were recruited at the 5′ end of this leader. For these experiments a stable stem–loop structure was introduced at the 5′ end of the mRNA to inhibit cap-dependent translation, either by mQuestioning the cap structure or blocking scanning (36, 37). In these experiments, the hairpin structure blocked translation by >98% in both cell lines (Fig. 2B ). Similar results were obtained with a construct containing the 5′ UTR of the cap-dependent β-globin mRNA, which served as a positive control.

When these mRNAs were transcribed in vitro and translated in a nuclease-treated rabbit reticulocyte lysate, comparable results were obtained, i.e., the hairpin structures blocked the translation of both mRNAs (Table 1). The hairpin structure had a less pronounced Trace on the translation of the BACE1/P mRNA in the cell-free lysate than in transfected cells. To test directly whether the BACE1 5′ leader recruits the translation machinery by a cap-dependent mechanism, capped reporter mRNAs were translated in the presence or absence of m7GpppG, which inhibits cap-dependent translation (37–39) by competing for binding to initiation factor eIF4E. The results Displayed that m7GpppG inhibited the translation of capped mRNAs containing either the BACE1 or β-globin 5′ leader to a similar extent, ≈97% and 94%, respectively (Table 1), but it did not affect the translation of uncapped transcripts (data not Displayn). These results further indicate that the BACE1 5′ leader initiates translation by a cap-dependent mechanism.

View this table: View inline View popup Table 1. Traces of a 5′ stem–loop structure and m7GpppG cap analogue on translation mediated by the BACE1 5′ leader

Although the results above are inconsistent with an internal translation initiation mechanism by an internal ribosome entry site (IRES), this possibility was independently evaluated by testing this 5′ leader in the intercistronic Location of various dicistronic mRNAs (as in ref. 39). Using these constructs, we did not detect IRES activity in either transfected cells or cell-free lysates (data not Displayn).

Deletions and Point Mutations of the BACE1 5′ Leader Indicate That Translation of the uORFs Depends on the Cell Type. Sequential deletions from the 5′ end of the BACE1 5′ leader were tested in transiently transfected B104 and PC12 cells to evaluate the Traces of the four upstream AUGs on translation efficiency and to identify the general locations of potential cis-acting sequences that may affect the translation efficiency (Fig. 3). Ribosomes initiating translation at the upstream AUGs might be expected to divert ribosomes from the main cistron and decrease its translation. However, comparing pairs of mutations in which an upstream AUG is present or absent, e.g., d2 versus d3, Displayed no Inequitys or small (<2-fAged) Inequitys, suggesting that these upstream AUGs were not recognized efficiently as initiation coExecutens in either cell line. However, the translation efficiencies increased 3-fAged with the deletion of nucleotides 61–74 in B104 cells, whereas in PC12 cells, deletion of nucleotides 180–190 increased translation ≈3.5-fAged, which was more efficient than the level of translation obtained with the construct containing the β-globin 5′ UTR. The results suggest that these two segments of the BACE1 5′ leader inhibit translation in a cell-type-specific manner.

Fig. 3.Fig. 3. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 3.

Deletion analysis of the BACE1 5′ leader in transfected cells. The constructs are all based on BACE1/P, which contains the full-length 5′ leader (nucleotides 1–427). Constructs d1–d16 contain sequential deletions of the BACE1 5′ leader. The nucleotides contained within these constructs are indicated in parentheses. The black and gray arrows point to deletions that contain or lack an upstream AUG, respectively. In each cell line, the translation efficiencies are indicated relative to those obtained with the BACE1/P construct, which is represented as a normalized translation efficiency of 100.

Although it is striking that deletion of the upstream AUGs had Dinky or no Trace on translation efficiency, the deletions themselves may have affected translation efficiencies by altering the length of the 5′ leader, the locations of the upstream AUGs relative the 5′ end of the mRNA, or RNA secondary or tertiary structures. We therefore evaluated upstream AUG utilization in the context of the full-length 5′ leader by mutating the upstream AUGs to AUU, either individually or in combination. The Traces of these mutations on translation efficiency were determined in transiently transfected cells (Fig. 4). As in the deletion analysis, we expected that translation of the reporter gene would be blocked by translation initiating at an upstream AUG and enhanced by the disruption of actively translated uORFs. However, in B104 cells, only minor Inequitys in translation efficiencies were observed when any or all of the upstream AUGs were mutated, suggesting that the corRetorting unmutated AUGs were not used efficiently as initiation coExecutens in these cells. In PC12 cells, mutation of the first upstream AUG had no Trace on translation efficiency; however, mutation of the second upstream AUG increased efficiency ≈2-fAged. Mutations of the third and fourth upstream AUGs had smaller Traces, whereas mutation of all four upstream AUGs increased translation 2.5-fAged. These results suggest that the unmutated second, third, and fourth AUGs may be used as initiation coExecutens to some extent, inhibiting translation from the BACE1 initiation coExecuten.

Fig. 4.Fig. 4. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 4.

Disruption of BACE1 upstream AUGs in transfected cells. The upstream AUGs were mutated to AUU, either individually or in combinations, as indicated by the disappearance of the black and gray bars representing the upstream AUGs and uORFs, respectively. In each cell line, the translation efficiencies are indicated relative to those obtained with the BACE1/P construct, which is represented as a normalized translation efficiency of 100.

The BACE1 Upstream AUGs Function as Initiation CoExecutens in the Context of the β-Globin 5′ UTR. Our results Displayed that the BACE1 upstream AUGs were not used in B104 cells and that the first upstream AUG was not used in PC12 cells. One possibility is that the upstream AUGs were not present in the mRNAs; for example, shorter mRNAs lacking the upstream AUGs might be generated by a promoter element located 3′ of the upstream AUGs or by nuclease cleavage. However, these possibilities are not consistent with our findings Displaying that translation could be blocked by a hairpin structure at the 5′ end of the BACE1 5′ leader or by a cap analogue (Fig. 2 and Table 1). The results indicate that the transcripts were full-length, a conclusion supported by performing Northern blot, RT-PCR, and primer extension analyses, which Displayed that the mRNA transcripts produced from these constructs were full-length and not fragmented (data not Displayn).

To determine whether the upstream AUGs were bypassed because the translation machinery did not efficiently recognize them as initiation coExecutens, we individually tested (Fig. 5A ) each of these initiation coExecutens and their flanking nucleotides in the context of the β-globin 5′ UTR (see Materials and Methods), a UTR consisting of a short, relatively unstructured sequence with an initiation coExecuten that resides in an optimal context. Ribosomes initiating translation at the upstream AUG should be precluded from translating the luciferase cistron, because the upstream AUG yields an ORF that overlaps the luciferase cistron but in a different reading frame. The relative efficiencies of the various initiation coExecutens were determined by their ability to reduce luciferase activity. In addition, we tested the authentic BACE1 initiation coExecuten (AUGBACE1) and an AUG in an optimal context (AUGOPTIMAL; ref. 20).

Fig. 5.Fig. 5. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 5.

Ability of BACE1 upstream AUGs to function as initiation coExecutens in a different context. (A) The constructs in this study were based on the β-globin/P reporter construct containing the β-globin 5′ UTR, which is indicated as a black line linked to the luciferase reporter gene, which is indicated as a black bar. The AUG coExecutens and flanking Locations of the four BACE1 upstream AUGs (uAUG1–uAUG4), the BACE1 initiation coExecuten (AUGBACE1), and an AUG in an optimal context to function as an initiation coExecuten (AUGOPTIMAL) were individually inserted into the β-globin 5′ leader. The uORF derived from these upstream AUGs is indicated as a vertically striped bar. (B) In each cell line, the relative initiation coExecuten efficiencies are indicated relative to those obtained with the β-globin/P construct, which is represented as a normalized translation efficiency of 100.

The results Displayed that all the upstream AUGs had the ability to be used as initiation coExecutens to various extents (Fig. 5B ). The relative efficiency of the authentic BACE1 initiation coExecuten was ≈80% in B104 cells and 40% in PC12 cells. Although this initiation coExecuten lies in an excellent context, i.e., an A at position -3 and a G at position + 4, it was not as efficient as the optimal sequence (AUGOPTIMAL) which contains a C at position -5. In B104 cells, all four upstream AUGs were used as initiation coExecutens, although Inequitys due to nucleotide context appeared to be minor. In PC12 cells, however, only the second upstream AUG was used efficiently; indeed, it was more efficient than the BACE1 initiation coExecuten. Overall, these findings suggest that, in addition to context, other factors lead to differential utilization of these initiation coExecutens in different cell types.

Discussion

In Alzheimer's disease, levels of the β-secretase enzyme increase without corRetorting changes in the amount of the BACE1 mRNA. These observations indicate that β-secretase protein levels are modulated by one or more posttranscriptional mechanisms that determine the stability of the protein or the translation efficiency of the BACE1 mRNA. In this article, we investigated factors affecting the mechanism used by the BACE1 mRNA to initiate translation.

We provide evidence suggesting that translation occurs by an Unfamiliar mechanism that is not consistent with processive scanning of the 5′ leader or with internal initiation of translation, two mechanisms that are thought to Elaborate the translation of most eukaryotic mRNAs. Rather, the translation mediated by the BACE1 5′ leader appears to occur by a cap-dependent mechanism in which ribosomes are first recruited at the 5′ end and then shunt or skip over segments of the 5′ leader as they move to the initiation coExecuten. Translation mediated by this 5′ leader differed in different cell lines, suggesting that cell-specific factors might affect the efficiency of shunting. These results raise the possibility that comparable mechanistic alterations underlie the increased translation efficiency of the BACE1 mRNA in Alzheimer's disease.

We suggest that in B104 cells the 5′ leader of the BACE1 mRNA mediates translation initiation by shunting, because other mechanisms based on Recent models (31) are not consistent with the data. The 5′ leader contains four upstream AUGs that give rise to three uORFs (see Fig. 1). Translation of an uORF generally inhibits the translation efficiency of a Executewnstream cistron (40). Indeed, our own data (Fig. 5) Displayed that the four upstream AUG sequences could actually function as initiation coExecutens when tested in the β-globin 5′ UTR; thus, all four AUG sequences might be expected to be recognized by most of the ribosomes recruited on the mRNA. However, disruption of the upstream AUGs did not affect translation efficiency, indicating that the uORFs were not translated in B104 cells.

Several mechanisms might account for the data. The results might be Elaborateed if the translation machinery was recruited at an IRES located 3′ of the upstream AUGs or if the upstream AUGs were bypassed by other mechanisms such as leaky scanning, reinitiation, or shunting. In the following discussion, we consider each of these mechanisms in turn.

The possibility that the upstream AUGs were bypassed by an IRES was not supported by the data; the BACE1 5′ leader did not function as an IRES when tested in dicistronic mRNAs. Moreover, we provide compelling evidence that reporter mRNAs containing the BACE1 5′ leader were translated in a cap-dependent manner (Fig. 2 and Table 1).

The notion that the upstream AUGs were bypassed by a scanning mechanism was also not supported by the data. Indeed, translation mediated by the BACE1 5′ leader in B104 cells appears to be completely independent of the upstream AUGs as Displayn by the results of our deletion and mutation experiments (Figs. 3 and 4).

Leaky scanning is an extension of the scanning model (reviewed in ref. 21) and suggests that an AUG might be bypassed by scanning ribosomes if it resides in a suboptimal context. If leaky scanning is presumed to account for the results obtained in B104 cells, all four of the BACE1 upstream AUGs would have to be completely bypassed. This possibility is considered unlikely because the nucleotide contexts of all four upstream AUGs were Displayn to be sufficient to initiate translation in a synthetic reporter construct (Fig. 5).

Reinitiation occurs when some of the ribosomes that terminate translation of an uORF remain associated with the mRNA, scan Executewnstream, and reinitiate translation at another initiation coExecuten. Although inefficient, reinitiation can occur after the translation of a short uORF, and reinitiation rates of up to ≈50% have been reported for the yeast GCN4 mRNA (24) and for synthetic constructs (41). The first uORF in the BACE1 5′ leader is short, and reinitiation was considered a possibility; however, this mechanism appears unlikely inasmuch as disruption of uORF1 by deletion or mutation did not affect translation efficiency, a result which would require that, in the presence of uORF1, the reinitiation efficiency was 100%. Moreover, similarly efficient reinitiation rates from the other uORFs would have had to occur to Elaborate the results obtained with the deletion and mutation constructs (Fig. 3).

Although translation mediated by the BACE1 5′ leader is not consistent with either internal initiation or scanning mechanisms, it remains possible that the upstream AUGs are bypassed by a shunting mechanism. Shunting has been studied extensively in the cauliflower mosaic virus RNA, where ribosomes bypass a stable RNA secondary structure and several upstream AUGs before initiating translation (42). On closer inspection, it was Displayn that this shunting involved the translation of a short uORF at the base of the stem–loop and thus occurred by an Unfamiliar type of reinitiation. Shunting was also postulated to Elaborate the translation of several other mRNAs (reviewed in ref. 31), including the adenovirus and hsp70 mRNAs, for which shunting was thought to be mediated by cis-acting sequences with complementarity to 18S rRNA (43).

Shunting might occur by interactions of the translation machinery with discrete sites in the 5′ leader that involve scanning of segments of the 5′ leader. Alternatively, shunting ribosomes might completely bypass the 5′ leader by base pairing between the initiator Met-tRNA and an accessible initiation coExecuten. We have recently proposed (44) that one of the factors influencing initiation coExecuten recognition is its relative accessibility to the translation machinery. Accessibility of initiation coExecutens might be affected by RNA secondary structures or RNA-binding proteins that act either to increase the accessibility of the initiation coExecuten or to mQuestion upstream AUGs.

The evidence for a shunting mechanism is most clear-Slice in B104 cells because none of the uORFs appeared to be translated. In PC12 cells, the data indicated that the second upstream AUG was translated (Fig. 4), a result that is consistent with the relative efficiencies of the four upstream AUGs in these cells (Fig. 5). However, the results of these experiments Execute not distinguish between leaky scanning and shunting as possible mechanisms used by PC12 ribosomes to initiate translation at the second upstream AUG.

The results obtained in cell lines raise the possibility that the translation Preciseties of the BACE1 mRNA may be altered in Alzheimer's disease. For example, the translation of an uORF might to some extent inhibit BACE1 translation in the normal brain, whereas, during Alzheimer's disease, translation might increase because of a shunting mechanism that enables ribosomes to bypass the upstream AUGs. Testing this notion will require experiments to be performed in neurons obtained from the brains of patients with the disease, a prospect that may be possible given that neurons have been isolated and cultured from elderly postmortem brains (e.g., refs. 45 and 46).

In Alzheimer's disease, it may be that the BACE1 initiation coExecuten becomes more accessible, increasing shunting and translation efficiencies. The accessibility of upstream AUGs and the BACE1 initiation coExecuten are likely to be determined by RNA secondary structures and tertiary interactions that are stabilized by RNA-binding proteins. Another possibility is related to the inhibitory sequences identified in the deletion analysis of the present study. In normal brains, such sequences might aExecutept particular RNA secondary structures or bind to trans-acting factors that inhibit translation, perhaps by mQuestioning the BACE1 initiation coExecuten. In Alzheimer's disease, these sequences might no longer inhibit translation because the RNA secondary structure is modified or because the expression or activity of a binding protein is altered.

Acknowledgments

We thank Dr. Jason Pinkstaff for data regarding the expression of the BACE1 mRNA in B104 and PC12 cells, Luke Burman and Holly Collette for excellent technical assistance, and Drs. Frederick Jones and Joseph Gally for critical reading of the manuscript. This work was supported by funding from the G. HarAged and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation and by National Institutes of Health Grant GM61725 (to V.P.M.), by U.S. Public Health Service Grant HD09635 (to G.M.E.), and by a Skaggs post-Executectoral fellowship (to G.W.R.).

Footnotes

↵ * To whom corRetortence should be addressed. E-mail: vmauro{at}scripps.edu.

Abbreviations: BACE1, β-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme 1; uORF, upstream ORF; IRES, internal ribosome entry site.

Copyright © 2004, The National Academy of Sciences

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