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Journal of Biological Chemistry

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Medical Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences


The sodium-dependent neutral amino acid transporter type 2 (ASCT2) was recently identified as a cell surface receptor for endogenously inherited retroviruses of cats, baboons, and humans as well as for horizontally transmitted type-D simian retroviruses. By functional cloning, we obtained 10 full-length 2.9-kilobase pair (kbp) cDNAs and two smaller identical 2.1-kbp cDNAs that conferred susceptibility to these viruses. Compared with the 2.9-kbp cDNA, the 2.1-kbp cDNA contains exonic deletions in its 3′ noncoding region and a 627-bp 5′ truncation that eliminates sequences encoding the amino-terminal portion of the full-length ASCT2 protein. Although expression of the truncated mRNA caused enhanced amino acid transport and viral receptor activities, the AUG codon nearest to its 5′ end is flanked by nucleotides that are incompatible with translational initiation and the next in-frame AUG codon is far downstream toward the end of the protein coding sequence. Interestingly, the 5′ region of the truncated ASCT2 mRNA contains a closely linked series of CUG(Leu) and GUG(Val) codons in optimal consensus contexts for translational initiation. By deletion and site-directed mutagenesis, cell-free translation, and analyses of epitope-tagged ASCT2 proteins synthesized intracellularly, we determined that the truncated mRNA encodes multiple ASCT2 isoforms with distinct amino termini that are translationally initiated by a leaky scanning mechanism at these CUG and GUG codons. Although the full-length ASCT2 mRNA contains a 5′-situated AUG initiation codon, a significant degree of leaky scanning also occurred in its translation. ASCT2 isoforms with relatively short truncations were active in both amino acid transport and viral reception, whereas an isoform with a 79-amino acid truncation that lacked the first transmembrane sequence was active only in viral reception. We conclude that ASCT2 isoforms with truncated amino termini are synthesized in mammalian cells by a leaky scanning mechanism that employs multiple alternative CUG and GUG initiation codons.




© 2001 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.