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Finn Skou Pedersen

A unique, thermostable dimer linkage structure of RD114 retroviral RNA

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  • Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center
  • Department of Molecular Biology
Retroviruses package their genome as RNA dimers linked together primarily by base-pairing between palindromic stem-loop (psl) sequences at the 5' end of genomic RNA. Retroviral RNA dimers usually in the range of 55 degrees C-70 degrees C. However, RNA dimers from virions of the feline endogenous gammaretrovirus RD114 were reported to melt only at 87 degrees C. We here report that the high thermal stability of RD114 RNA dimers generated from in vitro synthesized RNA is an effect of multiple dimerization sites located in the 5' region from the R region to sequences downstream from the splice donor (SD) site. By antisense oligonucleotide probing we were able to map at least five dimerization sites. Computational prediction revealed a possibility to form stems with autocomplementary loops for all of the mapped dimerization sites. Three of them were located upstream of the SD site. Mutant analysis supported a role of all five loop sequences in the formation and thermal stability of RNA dimers. Four of the five psls were also predicted in the RNA of two baboon endogenous retroviruses proposed to be ancestors of RD114. RNA fragments of the 5' R region or prolonged further downstream could be efficiently dimerized in vitro. However, this was not the case for the 3' R region linked to upstream U3 sequences, suggesting a specific mechanism of negative regulation of dimerization at the 3' end of the genome, possibly explained by a long double-stranded RNA region at the U3-R border. Altogether, these data point to determinants of the high thermostability of the dimer linkage structure of the RD114 genome and reveal differences from other retroviruses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-584
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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