- Abstract The 3' AU-rich region of human beta-1 interferon (hu-IFN beta) mRNA was found to act as a translational inhibitory element. The translational regulation of this 3' AU-rich sequence and the effect of its association with the poly(A) tail were studied in cell-free rabbit reticulocyte lysate. A poly(A)-rich hu-IFN beta mRNA (110 A residues) served as an inefficient template for protein synthesis. However, translational efficiency was considerably improved when the poly(A) tract was shortened (11 A residues) or when the 3' AU-rich sequence was deleted, indicating that interaction between these two regions was responsible for the reduced translation of the poly(A)-rich hu-IFN beta mRNA. Differences in translational efficiency of the various hu-IFN beta mRNAs correlated well with their polysomal distribution. The poly(A)-rich hu-IFN beta mRNA failed to form large polysomes, while its counterpart bearing a short poly(A) tail was recruited more efficiently into large polysomes. The AU-rich sequence-binding activity was reduced when the RNA probe contained both the 3' AU-rich sequence and long poly(A) tail, supporting a physical association between these two regions. Further evidence for this interaction was achieved by RNase H protection assay. We suggest that the 3' AU-rich sequence may regulate the translation of hu-IFN beta mRNA by interacting with the poly(A) tail.