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Molecular mechanisms of circular RNA translation.

Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are covalently closed single-stranded RNAs without a 5' cap structure and a 3' poly(A) tail typically present in linear mRNAs of eukaryotic cells. CircRNAs are predominantly generated through a back-splicing process within the nucleus. CircRNAs have long been considered non-coding RNAs seemingly devoid of protein-coding potential. However, many recent studies have challenged this idea and have provided substantial evidence that a subset of circRNAs can associate with polysomes and indeed be translated. Therefore, in this review, we primarily highlight the 5' cap-independent internal initiation of translation that occurs on circular RNAs. Several molecular features of circRNAs, including the internal ribosome entry site, N6 -methyladenosine modification, and the exon junction complex deposited around the back-splicing junction after back-splicing event, play pivotal roles in their efficient internal translation. We also propose a possible relationship between the translatability of circRNAs and their stability, with a focus on nonsense-mediated mRNA decay and nonstop decay, both of which are well-characterized mRNA surveillance mechanisms. An in-depth understanding of circRNA translation will reshape and expand our current knowledge of proteomics.

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