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Virology. 2001 Jul 20;286(1):134-51.

Characterization of the cis-acting elements controlling subgenomic mRNAs of citrus tristeza virus: production of positive- and negative-stranded 3'-terminal and positive-stranded 5'-terminal RNAs.

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Department of Plant Pathology, University of Florida, Lake Alfred, Florida 33850, USA.


Citrus tristeza virus (CTV), a member of the Closteroviridae, has an approximately 20-kb positive-sense RNA genome with two 5' ORFs translated from the genomic RNA and 10 3' genes expressed via nine or ten 3'-terminal subgenomic (sg) RNAs. The expression of the 3' genes appears to have properties intermediate between the smaller viruses of the "alphavirus supergroup" and the larger viruses of the Coronaviridae. The sgRNAs are contiguous with the genome, without a common 5' leader, and are associated with large amounts of complementary sgRNAs. Production of the different sgRNAs is regulated temporally and quantitatively, with the highly expressed genes having noncoding regions (NCR) 5' of the ORFs. The cis-acting elements that control the highly expressed major coat protein (CP) gene and the intermediately expressed minor coat protein (CPm) gene were mapped and compared. Mutational analysis showed that the CP sgRNA controller element mapped within nts -47 to -5 upstream of the transcription start site, entirely within the NCR, while the CPm control region mapped within a 57 nt sequence within the upstream ORF. Although both regions were predicted to fold into two stem-loop structures, mutagenesis suggested that primary structure might be more important than the secondary structure. Because each controller element produced large amounts of 3'-terminal positive- and negative-stranded sgRNAs, we could not differentiate whether the cis-acting element functioned as a promoter or terminator, or both. Reversal of the control element unexpectedly produced large amounts of a negative-stranded sgRNA apparently by termination of negative-stranded genomic RNA synthesis. Further examination of controller elements in their native orientation showed normal production of abundant amounts of positive-stranded sgRNAs extending to near the 5'-terminus, corresponding to termination at each controller element. Thus, each controller element produced three sgRNAs, a 5'-terminal positive strand and both positive- and negative-stranded 3'-terminal RNAs. Therefore, theoretically CTV could produce 30-33 species of RNAs in infected cells.

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