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Published January 1994 | Published
Journal Article Open

Subgenomic mRNA of Aura alphavirus is packaged into virions


Purified virions of Aura virus, a South American alphavirus related to Sindbis virus, were found to contain two RNA species, one of 12 kb and the other of 4.2 kb. Northern (RNA) blot analysis, primer extension analysis, and limited sequencing showed that the 12-kb RNA was the viral genomic RNA, whereas the 4.2-kb RNA present in virus preparations was identical to the 26S subgenomic RNA present in infected cells. The subgenomic RNA is the messenger for translation of the viral structural proteins, and its synthesis is absolutely required for replication of the virus. Although 26S RNA is present in the cytosol of all cells infected by alphaviruses, this is the first report of incorporation of the subgenomic RNA into alphavirus particles. Packaging of the Aura virus subgenomic mRNA occurred following infection of mosquito (Aedes albopictus C6/36), hamster (BHK-21), or monkey (Vero) cells. Quantitation of the amounts of genomic and subgenomic RNA both in virions and in infected cells showed that the ratio of genomic to subgenomic RNA was 3- to 10-fold higher in Aura virions than in infected cells. Thus, although the subgenomic RNA is packaged efficiently, the genomic RNA has a selective advantage during packaging. In contrast, in parallel experiments with Sindbis virus, packaging of subgenomic RNA was not detectable. We also found that subgenomic RNA was present in about threefold-greater amounts relative to genomic RNA in cells infected by Aura virus than in cells infected by Sindbis virus. Packaging of the Aura virus subgenomic RNA, but not those of other alphaviruses, suggests that Aura virus 26S RNA contains a packaging signal for incorporation into virions. The importance of the packaging of this RNA into virions in the natural history of the virus remains to be determined.

Additional Information

Copyright © 1994 by the American Society for Microbiology. Received 7 June 1993/Accepted 22 September 1993 We are grateful to the late Joel Dalrymple for encouragement and helpful discussions in the early stages of this project and for furnishing virus and virus RNA preparations. This work was supported by grants AI 20612 and AI 10793 from the National Institutes of Health. T.R. was supported by a fellowship from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

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