The role of the priming loop in influenza A virus RNA synthesis

Aartjan J.W. Te Velthuis, Nicole C. Robb, Achillefs N. Kapanidis, Ervin Fodor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRps) are used by RNA viruses to replicate and transcribe their RNA genomes 1. They adopt a closed, right-handed fold with conserved subdomains called palm, fingers and thumb 1,2. Conserved RdRp motifs A-F coordinate the viral RNA template, NTPs and magnesium ions to facilitate nucleotide condensation 1. For the initiation of RNA synthesis, most RdRps use either a primer-dependent or de novo mechanism 3. The influenza A virus RdRp, in contrast, uses a capped RNA oligonucleotide to initiate transcription, and a combination of terminal and internal de novo initiation for replication 4. To understand how the influenza A virus RdRp coordinates these processes, we analysed the function of a thumb subdomain β-hairpin using initiation, elongation and single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (sm-FRET) assays. Our data indicate that this β-hairpin is essential for terminal initiation during replication, but not necessary for internal initiation and transcription. Analysis of individual residues in the tip of the β-hairpin shows that PB1 proline 651 is critical for efficient RNA synthesis in vitro and in cell culture. Overall, this work advances our understanding of influenza A virus RNA synthesis and identifies the initiation platform of viral replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16029
JournalNature Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 21 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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