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PLoS One. 2013 Sep 3;8(9):e74328. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074328. eCollection 2013.

Experimental pathways towards developing a rotavirus reverse genetics system: synthetic full length rotavirus ssRNAs are neither infectious nor translated in permissive cells.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


At present the ability to create rationally engineered mutant rotaviruses is limited because of the lack of a tractable helper virus-free reverse genetics system. Using the cell culture adapted bovine RV RF strain (G6P6 [1]), we have attempted to recover infectious RV by co-transfecting in vitro transcribed ssRNAs which are identical in sequence to the positive sense strand of each of the 11 dsRNA genomic segments of the RF strain. The RNAs were produced either from cDNAs cloned by a target sequence-independent procedure, or from purified double layered RV particles (DLPs). We have validated their translational function by in vitro synthesis of (35)S-labelled proteins in rabbit reticulocyte lysates; all 11 proteins encoded by the RV genome were expressed. Transfection experiments with DLP- or cDNA-derived ssRNAs suggested that the RNAs do not act independently as mRNAs for protein synthesis, once delivered into various mammalian cell lines, and exhibit cytotoxicity. Transfected RNAs were not infectious since a viral cytopathic effect was not observed after infection of MA104 cells with lysates from transfected cells. By contrast, an engineered mRNA encoding eGFP was expressed when transfected under identical conditions into the same cell lines. Co-expression of plasmids encoding NSP2 and NSP5 using a fowlpox T7 polymerase recombinant virus revealed viroplasm-like structure formation, but this did not enable the translation of transfected RV ssRNAs. Attempts to recover RV from ssRNAs transcribed intracellularly from transfected cDNAs were also unsuccessful and suggested that these RNAs were also not translated, in contrast to successful translation from a transfected cDNA encoding an eGFP mRNA.

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