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Ribosome decision graphs for the representation of eukaryotic RNA translation complexity.

Genome Research 2024 May 8
The application of ribosome profiling has revealed an unexpected abundance of translation in addition to that responsible for the synthesis of previously annotated protein-coding regions. Multiple short sequences have been found to be translated within single RNA molecules, within both annotated protein-coding and noncoding regions. The biological significance of this translation is a matter of intensive investigation. However, current schematic or annotation-based representations of mRNA translation generally do not account for the apparent multitude of translated regions within the same molecules. They also do not take into account the stochasticity of the process that allows alternative translations of the same RNA molecules by different ribosomes. There is a need for formal representations of mRNA complexity that would enable the analysis of quantitative information on translation and more accurate models for predicting the phenotypic effects of genetic variants affecting translation. To address this, we developed a conceptually novel abstraction that we term ribosome decision graphs (RDGs). RDGs represent translation as multiple ribosome paths through untranslated and translated mRNA segments. We termed the latter "translons." Nondeterministic events, such as initiation, reinitiation, selenocysteine insertion, or ribosomal frameshifting, are then represented as branching points. This representation allows for an adequate representation of eukaryotic translation complexity and focuses on locations critical for translation regulation. We show how RDGs can be used for depicting translated regions and for analyzing genetic variation and quantitative genome-wide data on translation for characterization of regulatory modulators of translation.

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