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Virology. 1995 Aug 1;211(1):133-43.

Transcription of a recombinant bunyavirus RNA template by transiently expressed bunyavirus proteins.

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Institute of Virology, University of Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.


We describe a convenient system for analyzing bunyavirus transcription using a recombinant RNA template derived from the plasmid pBUNSCAT, which comprises a negative-sense reporter gene (chloramphenicol acetyltransferase or CAT) flanked by the exact 5' and 3' untranslated regions of the Bunyamwera virus (BUN) S RNA segment. When cells which expressed bunyavirus proteins (either by recombinant vaccinia viruses or by the vaccinia virus-T7 system) were transfected with BUNSCAT RNA, CAT activity could be measured, indicating transcription of the negative-sense reporter RNA into mRNA. The system permits investigation of both the protein and RNA sequence requirements for transcription. Extensions of 2 bases at the 5' end or 11 or 35 bases at the 3' end of BUNSCAT RNA allowed transcription but a lower level than the wild-type template. Deletion of the 5 nucleotides at the 3' end of BUNSCAT RNA reduced CAT activity by > 99%. Investigation of the viral protein requirements of the system showed that only the bunyavirus L and N proteins were needed for CAT activity. The BUN L protein was also able to transcribe the reporter RNA in concert with the N proteins of closely related bunyaviruses such as Batai, Cache Valley, Maguari, Main Drain, and Northway, but only inefficiently with those of Kairi, Guaroa, or Lumbo viruses. When BUN L proteins containing specific mutations were expressed CAT activity was only observed using those mutated L proteins previously reported to be active in a nucleocapsid transfection assay (H. Jin and R. M. Elliott, 1992, J. Gen. Virol. 73, 2235-2244). These results illustrate the utility of this system for a detailed genetic analysis of the factors involved in bunyavirus transcription.

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