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J Virol. 2008 Nov;82(21):10873-86. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00506-08. Epub 2008 Sep 3.

Mutations at alternative 5' splice sites of M1 mRNA negatively affect influenza A virus viability and growth rate.

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Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections, Chang Gung University, Kwei-Shan, Taoyuan, Taiwan.


Different amino acid sequences of influenza virus proteins contribute to different viral phenotypes. However, the diversity of the sequences and its impact on noncoding regions or splice sites have not been intensively studied. This study focuses on the sequences at alternative 5' splice sites on M1 mRNA. Six different mutations at the splice sites were introduced, and viral growth characteristics for those mutants generated by reverse genetics with 12 plasmids were examined, for which G12C (the G-to-C mutation at the first nucleotide of the intron for the mRNA3 5' splice site), C51G (at the 3' end of the exon of the M2 mRNA 5' splice site), and G146C (for the first nucleotide of the intron for mRNA4) are lethal mutations. On the other hand, mutants with the mutation G11C (at the 3' end of exon of the mRNA3 5' splice site), G52C (for the first nucleotide of the intron for M2 mRNA), or G145A (at the 3' end of the exon of mRNA4) were rescued, although they had significantly attenuated growth rates. Notably, these mutations did not change any amino acids in M1 or M2 proteins. The levels of precursor (M1 mRNA) and spliced products (M2 mRNA, mRNA3, and mRNA4) from the recombinant mutant virus-infected cells were further analyzed. The production levels of mRNA3 in cells infected with G11C, G52C, and G145A mutant viruses were reduced in comparison with that in wild-type recombinant virus-infected ones. More M2 mRNA was produced in G11C mutant virus-infected cells than in wild-type-virus-infected cells, and there was little M2 mRNA and none at all in G145A and G52C mutant virus-infected ones, respectively. Results obtained here suggest that introducing these mutations into the alternative 5' splice sites disturbed M1 mRNA splicing, which may attenuate viral growth rates.

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