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Adv Virus Res. 2003;59:99-140.

Kunjin RNA replication and applications of Kunjin replicons.

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Clinical Medical Virology Center-University of Queensland, Sir Albert Sakzewski Virus Research Center, Royal Children's Hospital, Herston, Brisbane, Australia.


The Kunjin virus (KUNV) has provided a useful laboratory model for Flavivirus RNA replication. The synthesis of progeny RNA(+) strands occurs via asymmetric and semiconservative replication on a template of recycling double-stranded RNA (dsRna) or replicative form (RF). Kinetics of viral RNA synthesis indicated a cycle period of about 15 min during which, on average, a single nascent RNA (+) strand displaces the pre-existing RNA(+) strand in the replicative intermediate. Data on the composition of the replication complex (RC) in KUNV-infected cells were obtained from several sources, including analyses of the partially-purified still active RC, immunogold labeling of cryosections using monospecific antibodies to the nonstructural proteins and to the dsRNA, radioimmunoprecipitations of cell lysates using antibodies to dsRNA and to an RC-associated cell marker, and pull-down assays of cell lysates using fusion proteins GST-NS2A and GST-NS4A. These results yeilded a consensus composition of NS1, NS2A, NS3, NS4A, and NS5 strongly associated with the dsRNA template. The RC was located in induced membranes described as vesicle packets. The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase activity late in infection did not require continuing protein synthesis. Replication of genomic RNA was completely dependent on the presence of conserved complementary or cyclization sequences near the 5' and 3' ends. Assembly of the RC during translation in cis and the relationships, particularly those of NS1 and NS5 among the components, were deduced from an extensive set of complementation experiments in trans involving mutations/deletions in all the nonstructural proteins and use of KUN or alphahavirus replicons as helpers. The KUN replicon has found useful applications also as a noncytopathic vector for the continuing expression of foreign genes, delivered either as packaged RNA or as plasmid DNA.

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