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J Virol. 2003 Jan;77(1):270-9.

The genome length of human parainfluenza virus type 2 follows the rule of six, and recombinant viruses recovered from non-polyhexameric-length antigenomic cDNAs contain a biased distribution of correcting mutations.

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Respiratory Viruses Section, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Members of the Paramyxovirinae subfamily of the Paramyxoviridae family of viruses have the unusual requirement that the nucleotide length of the viral genome must be an even multiple of six in order for efficient RNA replication, and hence virus replication, to occur. Human parainfluenza virus type 2 (HPIV2) is the only member of the genus that has been reported to have a genome length that is not an even multiple of six, and it has also been recovered from a full-length antigenomic-sense cDNA that did not conform to the "rule of six." To reexamine the issue of nucleotide length in natural isolates of HPIV2, a complete consensus genomic sequence was determined for three HPIV2 strains: Greer, Vanderbilt/1994 (V94), and Vanderbilt/1998. Each of these strains was found to have a genome length of 15,654 nucleotides (nt), thus conforming in each case to the rule of six. To directly examine the requirement that the genomic length of HPIV2 be an even multiple of six, we constructed six full-length antigenomic HPIV2/V94 cDNAs that deviated from a polyhexameric length by 0 to 5 nt. Recombinant HPIV2s were readily recovered from all of the cDNAs, including those that did not conform to the rule of six. One recombinant HPIV2 isolate was completely sequenced for each of the nonpolyhexameric antigenomic cDNAs. These were found to contain small nucleotide insertions or deletions that conferred polyhexameric length to the recovered genome. Interestingly, almost all of the length corrections occurred within the hemagglutinin-neuraminidase and large polymerase genes or the intervening intergenic region and thus were proximal to the insert that caused the deviation from the rule of six. These results demonstrate, in the context of complete infectious virus, that HPIV2 has a strong and seemingly absolute requirement for a polyhexameric genome.

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