Viral Short ORFs and Their Possible Functions

Yaara Finkel, Noam Stern-Ginossar, Michal Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Definition of functional genomic elements is one of the greater challenges of the genomic era. Traditionally, putative short open reading frames (sORFs) coding for less than 100 amino acids were disregarded due to computational and experimental limitations; however, it has become clear over the past several years that translation of sORFs is pervasive and serves diverse functions. The development of ribosome profiling, allowing identification of translated sequences genome wide, revealed wide spread, previously unidentified translation events. New computational methodologies as well as improved mass spectrometry approaches also contributed to the task of annotating translated sORFs in different organisms. Viruses are of special interest due to the selective pressure on their genome size, their rapid and confining evolution, and the potential contribution of novel peptides to the host immune response. Indeed, many functional viral sORFs were characterized to date, and ribosome profiling analyses suggest that this may be the tip of the iceberg. Our computational analyses of sORFs identified by ribosome profiling in DNA viruses demonstrate that they may be enriched in specific features implying that at least some of them are functional. Combination of systematic genome editing strategies with synthetic tagging will take us into the next stepelucidation of the biological relevance and function of this intriguing class of molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1700255
Number of pages8
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2018


  • micropeptides
  • ribosome profiling
  • translation
  • uORF
  • virus

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry


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