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Virology. 2011 Jan 5;409(1):27-32. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2010.09.006. Epub 2010 Oct 28.

Preferential use of RNA leader sequences during influenza A transcription initiation in vivo.

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Laboratory of Virology, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 1, 6708 PB, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


In vitro transcription initiation studies revealed a preference of influenza A virus for capped RNA leader sequences with base complementarity to the viral RNA template. Here, these results were verified during an influenza infection in MDCK cells. Alfalfa mosaic virus RNA3 leader sequences mutated in their base complementarity to the viral template, or the nucleotides 5' of potential base-pairing residues, were tested for their use either singly or in competition. These analyses revealed that influenza transcriptase is able to use leaders from an exogenous mRNA source with a preference for leaders harboring base complementarity to the 3'-ultimate residues of the viral template, as previously observed during in vitro studies. Internal priming at the 3'-penultimate residue, as well as "prime-and-realign" was observed. The finding that multiple base-pairing promotes cap donor selection in vivo, and the earlier observed competitiveness of such molecules in vitro, offers new possibilities for antiviral drug design.

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