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OMICS. 2009 Oct;13(5):421-30. doi: 10.1089/omi.2009.0036.

Importance of mRNA secondary structural elements for the expression of influenza virus genes.

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  • 1Cure Lab, Inc., Needham, Massachusetts 02492, USA.


Development of novel vaccines and therapeutics often requires efficient expression of recombinant viral proteins. Here we show that mutations in essential functional regions of conserved influenza proteins NP and NS1, lead to reduced expression of these genes in vitro. According to in silico analysis, these mRNA regions possess distinct secondary structures sensitive to mutations. We identified a novel structural feature within a region in NS1 mRNA that encodes amino acids essential for NS1 function. Mutations altering this mRNA element lead to significantly reduced protein expression. Conversely, expression was not affected by mutations resulting in amino acid substitutions, when they were designed to preserve this secondary RNA structural element. Furthermore, altering this structure significantly reduced RNA transcription without affecting mRNA stability. Therefore, distinct internal secondary structures of viral mRNA may be important for viral gene expression. If such elements encode amino acids essential for the protein function, then early selection against mutations in this region will be beneficial for the virus. This might point at yet another mechanism of viral evolution, especially for RNA viruses. Finally, introducing mutations into viral genes while preserving their secondary RNA structure, suggests a new method for the generation of efficiently expressed recombinants of viral proteins.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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