The RNA genome of coronaviruses consists of a single species of nonsegmented RNA. In this communication, we demonstrate that the RNA genomes of different strains of murine coronaviruses recombine during mixed infection at a very high frequency. Susceptible cells were coinfected with a temperature-sensitive mutant of one strain of mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) and a wild-type virus of a different strain. Of 21 randomly isolated viruses released from the coinfected cells at the nonpermissive temperature, 2 were recombinants which differed in the site of recombination. After three serial passages of the original virus pool derived from the mixed infection, the majority of the progeny viruses were recombinants. These recombinant viruses represented at least five different recombination sites between the two parental MHV strains. Such a high-frequency recombination between nonsegmented RNA genomes of MHV suggests that segmented RNA intermediates might be generated during MHV replication. We propose that the RNA replication of MHV proceeds in a discontinuous and nonprocessive manner, thus generating free segmented RNA intermediates, which could be used in RNA recombination via a copy-choice mechanism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science