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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jan 9, 1996; 93(1): 81–85.
PMCID: PMC40182

Transcription elongation factor of respiratory syncytial virus, a nonsegmented negative-strand RNA virus.

Abstract

RNA synthesis by the paramyxovirus respiratory syncytial virus, a ubiquitous human pathogen, was found to be more complex than previously appreciated for the nonsegmented negative-strand RNA viruses. Intracellular RNA replication of a plasmid-encoded "minigenome" analog of viral genomic RNA was directed by coexpression of the N, P, and L proteins. But, under these conditions, the greater part of mRNA synthesis terminated prematurely. This difference in processivity between the replicase and the transcriptase was unanticipated because the two enzymes ostensively shared the same protein subunits and template. Coexpression of the M2 gene at a low level of input plasmid resulted in the efficient production of full-length mRNA and, in the case of a dicistronic minigenome, sequential transcription. At a higher level, coexpression of the M2 gene inhibited transcription and RNA replication. The M2 mRNA contains two overlapping translational open reading frames (ORFs), which were segregated for further analysis. Expression of the upstream ORF1, which encoded the previously described 22-kDa M2 protein, was associated with transcription elongation. A model involving this protein in the balance between transcription and replication is proposed. ORF2, which lacks an assigned protein, was associated with inhibition of RNA synthesis. We propose that this activity renders nucleocapsids synthetically quiescent prior to incorporation into virions.

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