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J Virol. 1992 Feb;66(2):632-40.

Novel GACG-hairpin pair motif in the 5' untranslated region of type C retroviruses related to murine leukemia virus.

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Laboratory of Mathematical Biology, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland 21702.


We searched for the presence of common RNA structural motifs in mammalian type C retroviruses related to murine leukemia viruses and the closely related avian spleen necrosis virus. A novel motif consisting of a pair of hairpins, called hairpin pair motif, was detected in the 5' untranslated regions of the genomes of these retroviruses. A combination of computational analyses that included the assessment of phylogenetic sequence conservation by multiple alignment, the search for regions with unusual RNA folding properties, and the analysis of RNA secondary structure by suboptimal free-energy calculations highlighted the significance of this hairpin pair motif. The hairpin pair motif encompasses 70 to 80 nucleotides between the splice donor site and the gag translational initiation codon of these viruses. The motif is composed of two adjacent hairpins both with a perfectly conserved GACG tetraloop. We propose that the novel GACG-hairpin pair motif described here constitutes an essential component of the regulatory machinery in these type C retroviruses.

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