The C-terminal region of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 3a (eIF3a) promotes mRNA recruitment, scanning, and, together with eIF3j and the eIF3b RNA recognition motif, selection of AUG start codons.
The C-terminal domain (CTD) of the a/Tif32 subunit of budding yeast eukaryotic translation initiation factor 3 (eIF3) interacts with eIF3 subunits j/Hcr1 and b/Prt1 and can bind helices 16 to 18 of 18S rRNA, suggesting proximity to the mRNA entry channel of the 40S subunit. We have identified substitutions in the conserved Lys-Glu-Arg-Arg (KERR) motif and in residues of the nearby box6 element of the a/Tif32 CTD that impair mRNA recruitment by 43S preinitiation complexes (PICs) and confer phenotypes indicating defects in scanning and start codon recognition. The normally dispensable CTD of j/Hcr1 is required for its binding to a/Tif32 and to mitigate the growth defects of these a/Tif32 mutants, indicating physical and functional interactions between these two domains. The a/Tif32 CTD and the j/Hcr1 N-terminal domain (NTD) also interact with the RNA recognition motif (RRM) in b/Prt1, and mutations in both subunits that disrupt their interactions with the RRM increase leaky scanning of an AUG codon. These results, and our demonstration that the extreme CTD of a/Tif32 binds to Rps2 and Rps3, lead us to propose that the a/Tif32 CTD directly stabilizes 43S subunit-mRNA interaction and that the b/Prt1-RRM-j/Hcr1-a/Tif32-CTD module binds near the mRNA entry channel and regulates the transition between scanning-conducive and initiation-competent conformations of the PIC.