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J Virol. 2012 Jul;86(13):7043-51. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00662-12. Epub 2012 Apr 24.

The influenza A virus PB2, PA, NP, and M segments play a pivotal role during genome packaging.

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Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA.


The genomes of influenza A viruses consist of eight negative-strand RNA segments. Recent studies suggest that influenza viruses are able to specifically package their segmented genomes into the progeny virions. Segment-specific packaging signals of influenza virus RNAs (vRNAs) are located in the 5' and 3' noncoding regions, as well as in the terminal regions, of the open reading frames. How these packaging signals function during genome packaging remains unclear. Previously, we generated a 7-segmented virus in which the hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) segments of the influenza A/Puerto Rico/8/34 virus were replaced by a chimeric influenza C virus hemagglutinin/esterase/fusion (HEF) segment carrying the HA packaging sequences. The robust growth of the HEF virus suggested that the NA segment is not required for the packaging of other segments. In this study, in order to determine the roles of the other seven segments during influenza A virus genome assembly, we continued to use this HEF virus as a tool and analyzed the effects of replacing the packaging sequences of other segments with those of the NA segment. Our results showed that deleting the packaging signals of the PB1, HA, or NS segment had no effect on the growth of the HEF virus, while growth was greatly impaired when the packaging sequence of the PB2, PA, nucleoprotein (NP), or matrix (M) segment was removed. These results indicate that the PB2, PA, NP, and M segments play a more important role than the remaining four vRNAs during the genome-packaging process.

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