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J Virol. 1999 Sep;73(9):7421-9.

Point mutations in the avian sarcoma/leukosis virus 3' untranslated region result in a packaging defect.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.


The 3' untranslated region (3' UTR) between the 3' end of env and the long terminal repeat is well conserved among avian retroviruses and is essential for efficient replication. Deletion of the dr1 element within the 3' UTR has been reported to have various effects, including reduced levels of unspliced RNA in the cytoplasm, decreased stability of unspliced RNA, decreased particle production, and decreased genomic RNA packaging. To probe the role of specific sequences within dr1 in virus replication, site-directed mutagenesis was utilized to perturb parts of the predicted secondary structure of dr1. Seven of thirteen mutations had no significant effect; the others resulted in an approximately 10- to 20-fold reduction in replication. These mutants were further characterized and found to impair cytoplasmic accumulation of unspliced RNA only slightly. Furthermore, no decreases were observed in the stability of the unspliced RNA or in the production of virus particles. Genomic RNA packaging, however, was reduced by about 10-fold. Similar amounts of particles were produced by cells containing the mutant and wild-type DNA, and all particles contained similar levels of reverse transcriptase activity. The results suggest that the region of the dr1 disrupted by the mutations plays a role in genomic RNA packaging, although that packaging may not be the only role for dr1.

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