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PLoS One. 2009;4(5):e5473. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005473. Epub 2009 May 7.

The N-terminal region of the PA subunit of the RNA polymerase of influenza A/HongKong/156/97 (H5N1) influences promoter binding.

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  • 1Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.



The RNA polymerase of influenza virus is a heterotrimeric complex of PB1, PB2 and PA subunits which cooperate in the transcription and replication of the viral genome. Previous research has shown that the N-terminal region of the PA subunit of influenza A/WSN/33 (H1N1) virus is involved in promoter binding.


Here we extend our studies of the influenza RNA polymerase to that of influenza strains A/HongKong/156/97 (H5N1) and A/Vietnam/1194/04 (H5N1). Both H5N1 strains, originally isolated from patients in 1997 and 2004, showed significantly higher polymerase activity compared with two classical human strains, A/WSN/33 (H1N1) and A/NT/60/68 (H3N2) in vitro. This increased polymerase activity correlated with enhanced promoter binding. The N-terminal region of the PA subunit was the major determinant of this enhanced promoter activity.


Overall we suggest that the N-terminal region of the PA subunit of two recent H5N1 strains can influence promoter binding and we speculate this may be a factor in their virulence.

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