Nucleocapsid-independent specific viral RNA packaging via viral envelope protein and viral RNA signal

Krishna Narayanan, Chun Jen Chen, Junko Maeda, Shinji Makino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


For any of the enveloped RNA viruses studied to date, recognition of a specific RNA packaging signal by the virus's nucleocapsid (N) protein is the first step described in the process of viral RNA packaging. In the murine coronavirus a selective interaction between the viral transmembrane envelope protein M and the viral ribonucleoprotein complex, composed of N protein and viral RNA containing a short cis-acting RNA element, the packaging signal, determines the selective RNA packaging into virus particles. In this report we show that expressed coronavirus envelope protein M specifically interacted with coexpressed noncoronavirus RNA transcripts containing the short viral packaging signal in the absence of coronavirus N protein. Furthermore, this M protein-packaging signal interaction led to specific packaging of the packaging signal-containing RNA transcripts into coronavirus-like particles in the absence of N protein. These findings not only highlight a novel RNA packaging mechanism for an enveloped virus, where the specific RNA packaging can occur without the core or N protein, but also point to a new, biologically important general model of precise and selective interaction between transmembrane proteins and specific RNA elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2922-2927
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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