Viral genomes harbor a variety of unusual translational phenomena that allow them to pack coding information more densely and evade host restriction mechanisms imposed by the cellular translational apparatus. Annotating translated sequences within these genomes thus poses particular challenges, but identifying the full complement of proteins encoded by a virus is critical for understanding its life cycle and defining the epitopes it presents for immune surveillance. Ribosome profiling is an emerging technique for global analysis of translation that offers direct and experimental annotation of viral genomes. Ribosome profiling has been applied to two herpesvirus genomes, those of human cytomegalovirus and Kaposi's sarcoma–associated herpesvirus, revealing translated sequences within presumptive long noncoding RNAs and identifying other micropeptides. Synthesis of these proteins has been confirmed by mass spectrometry and by identifying T cell responses following infection. Ribosome profiling in other viruses will likely expand further our understanding of viral gene regulation and the proteome.


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