Guanine-rich sequences can fold into four-stranded structures of stacked guanine-tetrads, so-called G-quadruplexes (G4). These unique motifs have been extensively studied on the DNA level; however, exploration of the biological roles of G4s at the RNA level is just emerging. Here we show that G4 RNA when introduced within coding regions are capable of stimulating -1 ribosomal frameshifting (-1 FS) in vitro and in cultured cells. Systematic manipulation of the loop length between each G-tract revealed that the -1 FS efficiency positively correlates with G4 stability. Addition of a G4-stabilizing ligand, PhenDC3, resulted in higher -1 FS. Further, we demonstrated that the G4s can stimulate +1 FS and stop codon readthrough as well. These results suggest a potentially novel translational gene regulation mechanism mediated by G4 RNA.
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