Mechanism of coronavirus transcription: Duration of primary transcription initiation activity and effects of subgenomic RNA transcription on RNA replication

Yong Seok Jeong, Shinji Makino

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Previously, we established a system whereby an intergenic region from mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) inserted into an MHV defective interfering (DI) RNA led to transcription of a subgenomic DI RNA in helper virus-infected cells. By using this system, the duration of a primary transcription initiation activity which transcribes subgenomic-size RNAs from the genomic-size RNA template in MHV-infected cells was examined. Efficient DI genomic and subgenomic RNA synthesis was observed when the DI RNA was transfected at 1, 3, 3.5, 5, and 6 h postinfection, indicating that all activities which are necessary for MHV RNA synthesis are present continuously during the first 6 h of infection. The effect of subgenomic DI RNA synthesis on DI genomic RNA replication was then examined. Replication efficiency of the DI genomic RNA which synthesized the subgenomic RNA was approximately 70% lower than that of DI genomic RNA which did not synthesize the subgenomic DI RNA in MHV-infected cells. Cotransfection of two different-size DI RNAs demonstrated that replication of the larger DI RNA was strongly inhibited by replication of the smaller genomic DI RNA. Cotransfection of two DI RNA species of the same length into MHV-infected cells demonstrated that reduced replication of the genomic DI RNA which synthesizes the subgenomic RNA did not affect the replication of cotransfected DI RNA, demonstrating that the reduction in DI genomic RNA replication works only in cis, not in trans. Therefore, the previously proposed hypothesis that coronavirus subgenomic RNA synthesis may inhibit the replication of genomic RNA by competing for a limited amount of virus-derived factors seems unlikely. Possible mechanisms of coronavirus transcription are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3339-3346
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

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