The genomic RNA and intracellular RNA of mouse hepatitis virus, strain JHM (MHV-JHM) and two plaque mutants (la and 2c), which have been isolated from a persistently infected culture (JHM-CC), have been analyzed by T1-resistant oligonucleotide finger-printing. The genomic RNA of the virus population (JHM-CC virus) released from different passage levels of the same persistent infection has also been analyzed. The analysis shows the locations within the genomic and intracellular RNAs of more than 45 T1-resistant oligonucleotides and confirm earlier studies (J. L. Leibowitz, K. C. Wilhelmsen, and C. W. Bond (1981), Virology 114, 39-51), showing that the six subgenomic RNAs of MHV-JHM form a 3′ coterminal nested set which extends for different lengths in a 5′ direction. The analysis also identifies in each subgenomic RNA those large T1 oligonucleotides derived from noncontiguous regions of the genome during mRNA synthesis. Two important conclusions can be reached from analysis of the mutant viruses. First, the virus population released from the persistent infection represents a fairly constant mixture of viruses, and the fluctuating emergence of variants as predominant species in the culture does not occur. Second, the data indicate that for particular intracellular RNAs of mutant viruses the sequence rearrangements occurring during subgenomic mRNA synthesis are different from those in the corresponding intracellular RNA of wild-type virus. The result may indicate a potential flexibility in the leader/body fusion process that has not been previously recognized.
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