Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 569870, 9 pages
Review Article

Revealing −1 Programmed Ribosomal Frameshifting Mechanisms by Single-Molecule Techniques and Computational Methods

Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, National Taiwan University, Taipei 10617, Taiwan

Received 25 November 2011; Accepted 16 January 2012

Academic Editor: Shang-Te Danny Hsu

Copyright © 2012 Kai-Chun Chang. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Programmed ribosomal frameshifting (PRF) serves as an intrinsic translational regulation mechanism employed by some viruses to control the ratio between structural and enzymatic proteins. Most viral mRNAs which use PRF adapt an H-type pseudoknot to stimulate −1 PRF. The relationship between the thermodynamic stability and the frameshifting efficiency of pseudoknots has not been fully understood. Recently, single-molecule force spectroscopy has revealed that the frequency of −1 PRF correlates with the unwinding forces required for disrupting pseudoknots, and that some of the unwinding work dissipates irreversibly due to the torsional restraint of pseudoknots. Complementary to single-molecule techniques, computational modeling provides insights into global motions of the ribosome, whose structural transitions during frameshifting have not yet been elucidated in atomic detail. Taken together, recent advances in biophysical tools may help to develop antiviral therapies that target the ubiquitous −1 PRF mechanism among viruses.