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J Virol. 2005 Aug;79(16):10660-71.

The Ebola virus genomic replication promoter is bipartite and follows the rule of six.

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Department of Virology, Philipps University Marburg, Robert-Koch-Str.17, 35037 Marburg, Germany.


In this work we investigated the cis-acting signals involved in replication of Ebola virus (EBOV) genomic RNA. A set of mingenomes with mutant 3' ends were generated and used in a reconstituted replication and transcription system. Our results suggest that the EBOV genomic replication promoter is bipartite, consisting of a first element located within the leader region of the genome and a second, downstream element separated by a spacer region. While proper spacing of the two promoter elements is a prerequisite for replication, the nucleotide sequence of the spacer is not important. Replication activity was only observed when six or a multiple of six nucleotides were deleted or inserted, while all other changes in length abolished replication completely. These data indicate that the EBOV replication promoter obeys the rule of six, although the genome length is not divisible by six. The second promoter element is located in the 3' nontranslated region of the first gene and consists of eight UN5 hexamer repeats, where N is any nucleotide. However, three consecutive hexamers, which could be located anywhere within the promoter element, were sufficient to support replication as long as the hexameric phase was preserved. By using chemical modification assays, we could demonstrate that nucleotides 5 to 44 of the EBOV leader are involved in the formation of a stable secondary structure. Formation of the RNA stem-loop occurred independently of the presence of the trailer, indicating that a panhandle structure is not formed between the 3' and 5' ends.

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