The ribosomal stalk proteins, RPLP1 and RPLP2 (RPLP1/2), which form the ancient ribosomal stalk, were discovered decades ago but their functions remain mysterious. We had previously shown that RPLP1/2 are exquisitely required for replication of dengue virus (DENV) and other mosquito-borne flaviviruses. Here, we show that RPLP1/2 function to relieve ribosome pausing within the DENV envelope coding sequence, leading to enhanced protein stability. We evaluated viral and cellular translation in RPLP1/2-depleted cells using ribosome profiling and found that ribosomes pause in the sequence coding for the N-terminus of the envelope protein, immediately downstream of sequences encoding two adjacent transmembrane domains (TMDs). We also find that RPLP1/2 depletion impacts a ribosome density for a small subset of cellular mRNAs. Importantly, the polarity of ribosomes on mRNAs encoding multiple TMDs was disproportionately affected by RPLP1/2 knockdown, implying a role for RPLP1/2 in multi-pass transmembrane protein biogenesis. These analyses of viral and host RNAs converge to implicate RPLP1/2 as functionally important for ribosomes to elongate through ORFs encoding multiple TMDs. We suggest that the effect of RPLP1/2 at TMD associated pauses is mediated by improving the efficiency of co-translational folding and subsequent protein stability.
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