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Virology. 1998 Sep 1;248(2):342-56.

Molecular characterization of tomato spotted Wilt virus defective interfering RNAs and detection of truncated L proteins.

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Department of Virology, Wageningen Agricultural University, Binnenhaven 11, Wageningen, 6709 PD, The Netherlands.


Junction sites of 25 different defective interfering (DI) RNAs of tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) were characterized. The DI RNAs varied in size from 2.0 to 5.2 kilobases (kb) and contained a single internal deletion. The absence of DI RNAs smaller than 2 kb suggested a size constraint for the survival of TSWV DI RNAs. This hypothesis was reinforced by the finding of a dimeric DI RNA formed by two 1.6-long monomers linked head to tail. Three types of junction sites were found, one type originating from a simple deletion; the second type contained a few extra nucleotides of unknown origin; and the third type contained a stretch of three to five nucleotides, originally occurring at both sides of the deletion and of which one was deleted. In 19 of the 25 DI RNAs studied, the original reading frame was maintained, suggesting a selective preference of DI RNAs with translational potency. Truncated proteins encoded by these DI RNAs were indeed detected in the nucleocapsid preparations. Folding studies of the complete L RNA revealed that the calculated minimal energy of folding was at 16 degreesC lower than at 23 degrees, indicating a higher stability of this molecule at low temperatures. The results suggest an involvement of locally folded secondary structures in the process of deletion, rather than the requirement of certain sequences around the deletion point. The DI RNA generation in TSWV is essentially, as discussed, similar to the process of RNA recombination described in many viruses.

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