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Virology. 1996 Mar 15;217(2):495-507.

Molecular characterization of transmissible gastroenteritis coronavirus defective interfering genomes: packaging and heterogeneity.

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Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, CSIC, Campus Universidad Autónoma, Cantoblanco, Madrid, Spain.


Three transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) defective RNAs were selected by serial undiluted passage of the PUR46 strain in ST cells. These RNAs of 22, 10.6, and 9.7 kb (DI-A, DI-B, and DI-C, respectively) were detected at passage 30, remained stable upon further passage in cell culture, and significantly interfered with helper mRNA synthesis. RNA analysis from purified virions showed that the three defective RNAs were efficiently packaged. Virions of different densities containing either full-length or defective RNAs were sorted in sucrose gradients, indicating that defective and full-length genomes were independently encapsidated. DI-B and DI-C RNAs were amplified by the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, cloned, and sequenced. DI-B and DI-C genomes are formed by three and four discontinuous regions of the wild-type genome, respectively. DI-C contains 2144 nucleotides (nt) from the 5'-end of the genome, two fragments of 4540 and 2531 nt mostly from gene 1b, and 493 nt from the 3' end of the genome. DI-B and DI-C RNAs include sequences with the pseudoknot motif and encoding the polymerase, metal ion binding, and helicase motifs. DI-B RNA has a structure closely related to DI-C RNA with two main differences: it maintains the entire ORF 1b and shows heterogeneity in the size of the 3' end deletion. This heterogeneity maps at the beginning of the S gene, where other natural TGEV recombination events have been observed, suggesting that either a process of template switching occurs with high frequency at this point or that the derived genomes have a selective advantage.

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