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EMBO J. 1994 Jul 1;13(13):3158-65.

Structure of influenza virus RNP. I. Influenza virus nucleoprotein melts secondary structure in panhandle RNA and exposes the bases to the solvent.

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EMBL Grenoble Outstation, France.


The influenza virus genome consists of eight segments of negative-sense RNA, i.e. the viral (v) RNA forms the template for the mRNA. Each segment is encapsidated by the viral nucleoprotein to form a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particle and each RNP carries its own polymerase complex. We studied the interaction of purified nucleoprotein with RNA in vitro, by using a variety of enzymatic and chemical probes for RNA conformation. Our results suggest that the nucleoprotein binds to the vRNA backbone without apparent sequence specificity, exposing the bases to the outside and melting all secondary structure. In this way, the viral polymerase may transcribe the RNA without the need for dissociating the nucleoprotein and without being stopped by RNA secondary structure, and the viral RNPs are ready to start transcription as soon as they enter the host cell.

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