Extensive translation of small ORFs revealed by polysomal ribo-Seq
Julie L Aspden, Ying Chen Eyre-Walker, Rose J. Phillips, Michele Brocard, Unum Amin, Juan Couso
Thousands of small Open Reading Frames (smORFs) encoding small peptides of fewer than 100 amino acids exist in our genomes. Examples of functional smORFs have been characterised in a few species but the actual number of translated smORFs, and their molecular, functional and evolutionary features are not known. Here we present a genome-wide assessment of smORF translation by ribosomal profiling of polysomal fractions. This polysomal ribo-Seq suggests that smORFs are translated at the same level and in the same relative numbers (80%) as normal proteins. The smORF peptides appear widely conserved, show activity in cells, and display a putative amino acid signature. These findings reinforce the idea that smORFs are an abundant and fundamental genome component, displaying features usually attributed to canonical proteins, including high translation levels, biological function, amino acid sequence specificity and cross-species conservation.