Infection with coronavirus results in the accumulation of genomic-sized mRNA and six to eight subgenomic mRNAs that make up a 3' coterminal nested-set structure. Genome-length negative-strand RNA and subgenomic-length negative-strand RNAs, each of which corresponds to each of the subgenomic mRNAs, also accumulate in infected cells. The present study examined whether the genome-length negative-strand RNA serves as a template for subgenomic mRNA synthesis. Genome-length replicative intermediate (RI) RNA was purified by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of intracellular RNAs from cells infected with mouse hepatitis virus. RNase A treatment of the purified genome-length RI resulted in the production of the genome-length replicative form RNA, indicating that the genome-length RI included genome-length template RNA. RNase protection assays using the purified genome-length RI and two probes, which corresponded to the 5' 300-nt region of mRNA 6 and to the same region of mRNA 7, showed the presence of nascent leader sequence-containing subgenomic mRNAs in the genome-length RI. These data demonstrated that the genome-length negative-strand RNA serves as a template for subgenomic mRNA synthesis. (C) 2000 Academic Press.
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