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RNA. 1998 Dec;4(12):1569-84.

The rhinovirus type 14 genome contains an internally located RNA structure that is required for viral replication.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 77555-1019, USA.


Cis-acting RNA signals are required for replication of positive-strand viruses such as the picornaviruses. Although these generally have been mapped to the 5' and/or 3' termini of the viral genome, RNAs derived from human rhinovirus type 14 are unable to replicate unless they contain an internal cis-acting replication element (cre) located within the genome segment encoding the capsid proteins. Here, we show that the essential cre sequence is 83-96 nt in length and located between nt 2318-2413 of the genome. Using dicistronic RNAs in which translation of the P1 and P2-P3 segments of the polyprotein were functionally dissociated, we further demonstrate that translation of the cre sequence is not required for RNA replication. Thus, although it is located within a protein-coding segment of the genome, the cre functions as an RNA entity. Computer folds suggested that cre sequences could form a stable structure in either positive- or minus-strand RNA. However, an analysis of mutant RNAs containing multiple covariant and non-covariant nucleotide substitutions within these putative structures demonstrated that only the predicted positive-strand structure is essential for efficient RNA replication. The absence of detectable minus-strand synthesis from RNAs that lack the cre suggests that the cre is required for initiation of minus-strand RNA synthesis. Since a lethal 3' noncoding region mutation could be partially rescued by a compensating mutation within the cre, the cre appears to participate in a long-range RNA-RNA interaction required for this process. These data provide novel insight into the mechanisms of replication of a positive-strand RNA virus, as they define the involvement of an internally located RNA structure in the recognition of viral RNA by the viral replicase complex. Since internally located RNA replication signals have been shown to exist in several other positive-strand RNA virus families, these observations are potentially relevant to a wide array of related viruses.

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