RNAs are packaged into human cytomegalovirus virions in proportion to their intracellular concentration

Scott S. Terhune, Jörg Schröer, Thomas Shenk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The assembly of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) virions is a complex process and involves the incorporation of viral transcripts. These RNAs are delivered to the newly infected cells and have the potential to be translated in the absence of HCMV gene expression. We have quantified the relative amount of RNAs in HCMV virions and infected cells with real-time reverse transcription-PCR and observed that viral and cellular RNAs are packaged in proportion to the amount of RNA within the cell at the time of assembly. To determine whether cis elements influenced RNA packaging, we constructed a recombinant HCMV mutant virus that expressed the yellow fluorescence protein (YFP) gene fused to the virion RNA UL21.5. We also constructed a mutant virus in which the UL21.5 transcription unit was replaced with the YFP gene. YFP RNA was incorporated into both viruses, indicating that RNA is incorporated in the absence of a virus-specific signal motif. Furthermore, with in situ hybridization, packaged transcripts were observed throughout the cytoplasm of the infected cells, including the site of virus assembly. Several proteins that nonspecifically interact with RNA, including the tegument protein pp28, were found within HCMV virions. These studies demonstrate that both viral and cellular RNAs are nonspecifically incorporated into HCMV, potentially through interactions with several virion proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10390-10398
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Insect Science
  • Virology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'RNAs are packaged into human cytomegalovirus virions in proportion to their intracellular concentration'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this