Deletion-containing viral genomes (DelVGs) are commonly produced during influenza A virus infection and have been implicated in influencing clinical infection outcomes. Despite their ubiquity, the specific molecular mechanisms that govern DelVG formation and their packaging into defective interfering particles (DIPs) remain poorly understood. Here, we utilized next-generation sequencing to analyze DelVGs that form de novo early during infection, prior to packaging. Analysis of these early DelVGs revealed that deletion formation occurs in clearly defined hot spots and is significantly associated with both direct sequence repeats and enrichment of adenosine and uridine bases. By comparing intracellular DelVGs with those packaged into extracellular virions, we discovered that DelVGs face a significant bottleneck during genome packaging relative to wild-type genomic RNAs. Interestingly, packaged DelVGs exhibited signs of enrichment for larger DelVGs suggesting that size is an important determinant of packaging efficiency. Our data provide the first unbiased, high-resolution portrait of the diversity of DelVGs that are generated by the influenza A virus replication machinery and shed light on the mechanisms that underly DelVG formation and packaging.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Defective interfering particles
- Genome packaging