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J Virol. 2006 Aug;80(16):7789-98.

Amino acid residues in the N-terminal region of the PA subunit of influenza A virus RNA polymerase play a critical role in protein stability, endonuclease activity, cap binding, and virion RNA promoter binding.

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Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3RE, United Kingdom.


The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of influenza virus is a heterotrimer formed by the PB1, PB2, and PA subunits. Although PA is known to be required for polymerase activity, its precise role is still unclear. Here, we investigated the function of the N-terminal region of PA. Protease digestion of purified recombinant influenza virus A/PR/8/34 PA initially suggested that its N-terminal region is folded into a 25-kDa domain. We then systematically introduced point mutations into evolutionarily conserved amino acids in the N-terminal region of influenza virus A/WSN/33. Most alanine-scanning mutations between residues L109 and F117 caused PA degradation, mediated by a proteasome-ubiquitin pathway, and as a consequence interfered with polymerase activity. Three further PA mutations, K102A, D108A, and K134A, were investigated in detail. Mutation K102A caused a general decrease both in transcription and replication in vivo, whereas mutations D108A and K134A selectively inhibited transcription. Both the D108A and K134A mutations completely inhibited endonuclease activity in vitro, explaining their selective defect in transcription. K102A, on the other hand, resulted in a significant decrease in both cap binding and viral RNA promoter-binding activity and consequently inhibited both transcription and replication. These results suggest that the N-terminal region of PA is involved in multiple functions of the polymerase, including protein stability, endonuclease activity, cap binding, and promoter binding.

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