RNA viruses have 5' and 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) that contain specific signals for RNA synthesis. The coronavirus genome is capped at the 5' end and has a 3' UTR that consists of 300 to 500 nucleotides (nt) plus a poly(A) tail. To further our understanding of coronavirus replication, we have begun to examine the involvement of host factors in this process for two group II viruses, bovine coronavirus (BCV) and mouse hepatitis coronavirus (MHV). Specific host protein interactions with the BCV 3' UTR [287 nt plus poly(A) tail] were identified using gel mobility shift assays. Competition with the MHV 3' UTR [301 nt plus poly(A) tail] suggests that the interactions are conserved for the two viruses. Proteins with molecular masses of 99, 95, and 73 kDa were detected in UV cross-linking experiments. Less heavily labeled proteins were also detected in the ranges of 40 to 50 and 30 kDa. The poly(A) tail was required for binding of the 73-kDa protein. Immunoprecipitation of UV-cross-linked proteins identified the 73-kDa protein as the cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding protein (PABP). Replication of the defective genomes BCV Drep and MHV MIDI-C, along with several mutants, was used to determine the importance of the poly(A) tail. Defective genomes with shortened poly(A) tails consisting of 5 or 10 A residues were replicated after transfection into helper virus-infected cells. BCV Drep RNA that lacked a poly(A) tail did not replicate, whereas replication of MHV MIDI-C RNA with a deleted tail was detected after several virus passages. All mutants exhibited delayed kinetics of replication. Detectable extension or addition of the poly(A) tail to the mutants correlated with the appearance of these RNAs in the replication assay. RNAs with shortened poly(A) tails exhibited less in vitro PABP binding, suggesting that decreased interactions with the protein may affect RNA replication. The data strongly indicate that the poly(A) tail is an important cis-acting signal for coronavirus replication.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science