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Virology. 2011 Mar 30;412(1):220-32. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2011.01.008. Epub 2011 Feb 2.

West Nile virus (WNV) genome RNAs with up to three adjacent mutations that disrupt long distance 5'-3' cyclization sequence basepairs are viable.

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Department of Biology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302, USA.


Mosquito-borne flavivirus genomes contain conserved 5' and 3' cyclization sequences (CYC) that facilitate long distance RNA-RNA interactions. In previous studies, flavivirus replicon RNA replication was completely inhibited by single or multiple mismatching CYC nt substitutions. In the present study, full-length WNV genomes with one, two or three mismatching CYC substitutions showed reduced replication efficiencies but were viable and generated revertants with increased replication efficiency. Several different three adjacent mismatching CYC substitution mutant RNAs were rescued by a second site mutation that created an additional basepair (nts 147-10913) on the internal genomic side of the 5'-3' CYC. The finding that full-length genomes with up to three mismatching CYC mutations are viable and can be rescued by a single nt spontaneous mutation indicates that more than three adjacent CYC basepair substitutions would be required to increase the safety of vaccine genomes by creating mismatches in inter-genomic recombinants.

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