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Identification and characterization of a coronavirus packaging signal

Identification and characterization of a coronavirus packaging signal

Journal of Virology 66(6): 3522-3530

Previously, a mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) genomic sequence necessary for defective interfering (DI) RNA packaging into MHV particles (packaging signal) was mapped to within a region of 1,480 nucleotides in the MHV polymerase gene by comparison of two DI RNAs. One of these, DIssF, is 3.6 kb in size and exhibits efficient packaging, whereas the other, DIssE, which is 2.3 kb, does not. For more precise mapping, a series of mutant DIssF RNAs with deletions within this 1,480-nucleotide region were constructed. After transfection of in vitro-synthesized mutant DI RNA in MHV-infected cells, the virus product was passaged several times. The efficiency of DI RNA packaging into MHV virions was then estimated by viral homologous interference activity and by analysis of intracellular virus-specific RNAs and virion RNA. The results indicated that an area of 190 nucleotides was necessary for packaging. A computer-generated secondary structural analysis of the A59 and JHM strains of MHV demonstrated that within this 190-nucleotide region a stable stem-loop of 69 nucleotides was common between the two viruses. A DIssE-derived DI RNA which had these 69 nucleotides inserted into the DIssE sequence demonstrated efficient DI RNA packaging. Site-directed mutagenic analysis showed that of these 69 nucleotides, the minimum sequence of the packaging signal was 61 nucleotides and that destruction of the secondary structure abolished packaging ability. These studies demonstrated that an MHV packaging signal was present within the 61 nucleotides, which are located on MHV genomic RNA 1,381 to 1,441 nucleotides upstream of the 3' end of gene 1.

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Accession: 007417015

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PMID: 1316465

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