Although a major site of transcription in heat shock, the Drosophila hsr omega gene does not encode any known heat shock proteins. Instead, studies of the hsr omega transcripts suggest that the RNA molecules, rather than encoded proteins, are the active products of this gene. The cytoplasmic RNA, omega 3, is spliced and polyadenylated and yet has only very small open reading frames (ORFs), and these are poorly conserved in different Drosophila species. Surprisingly, the work reported here leads us to conclude that one of the tiny ORFs in this RNA is translated. This ORF, designated ORF-omega, is notable in being the only ORF that shows sequence conservation in the three Drosophila species examined. However, translation of this ORF does not lead to detectable accumulation of the protein product. We suggest that ORF-omega may be an example of an unusual type of translated ORF. The act of translation itself may be important rather than the generation of a functional protein product. This nonproductive translation may play a role in regulation of cellular activities.

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