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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35989. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035989. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

Influenza A virus coding regions exhibit host-specific global ordered RNA structure.

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Department of Chemistry and Center for RNA Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA.


Influenza A is a significant public health threat, partially because of its capacity to readily exchange gene segments between different host species to form novel pandemic strains. An understanding of the fundamental factors providing species barriers between different influenza hosts would facilitate identification of strains capable of leading to pandemic outbreaks and could also inform vaccine development. Here, we describe the difference in predicted RNA secondary structure stability that exists between avian, swine and human coding regions. The results predict that global ordered RNA structure exists in influenza A segments 1, 5, 7 and 8, and that ranges of free energies for secondary structure formation differ between host strains. The predicted free energy distributions for strains from avian, swine, and human species suggest criteria for segment reassortment and strains that might be ideal candidates for viral attenuation and vaccine development.

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