Initiation, elongation, and realignment during influenza virus mRNA synthesis

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29 Scopus citations


The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) of the influenza A virus replicates and transcribes the viral genome segments in the nucleus of the host cell. To transcribe these viral genome segments, the RdRp "snatches" capped RNA oligonucleotides from nascent host cell mRNAs and aligns these primers to the ultimate or penultimate nucleotide of the segments for the initiation of viral mRNA synthesis. It has been proposed that this initiation process is not processive and that the RdRp uses a prime-realign mechanism during transcription. Here we provide in vitro evidence for the existence of this transcriptional prime-realign mechanism but show that it functions efficiently only for primers that are short or cannot stably base pair with the template. In addition, we demonstrate that transcriptional elongation is dependent on the priming loop of the PB1 subunit of the RdRp. We propose that the prime-realign mechanism may be used to rescue abortive transcription initiation events or cope with sequence variation among primers. Overall, these observations advance our mechanistic understanding of how influenza A virus initiates transcription correctly and efficiently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01775-17
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


  • Influenza A virus
  • Priming loop
  • RNA-dependent RNA polymerase
  • Realignment
  • Replication
  • Transcription
  • Viral transcription


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