Increased Amounts of the Influenza Virus Nucleoprotein Do Not Promote Higher Levels of Viral Genome Replication

J Gen Virol. 2004 Dec;85(Pt 12):3689-3698. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.80518-0.


Influenza virus genome replication requires the virus-encoded nucleoprotein (NP), partly because it is necessary to encapsidate the viral genomic RNA (vRNA) and antigenomic cRNA segments into ribonucleoproteins (RNPs). However, there is also evidence that NP actively regulates viral RNA synthesis and there is a long-standing hypothesis that increased concentrations of NP in the cell are responsible for a switch from genome transcription to replication. Here, this hypothesis is tested in a recombinant setting and in the context of virus infection. In a plasmid-based system for reconstituting active viral RNPs in cells, titration of increasing amounts of NP did not promote higher levels of genome replication relative to transcription, but in fact caused the opposite effect. An approximately fourfold reduction in the ratio of genomic and antigenomic RNAs to mRNA was seen across an 80-fold range of NP plasmid concentrations. When cells were transfected with the same amounts of NP plasmid to establish a concentration gradient of NP prior to virus superinfection, no change in the ratio of cRNA to mRNA was seen for segments 5 and 7, or for the ratio of segment 5 vRNA to mRNA. A slight reduction in the ratio of segment 7 vRNA to mRNA was seen. These findings do not support the simple hypothesis that increased intracellular concentrations of NP promote influenza virus genome replication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Genome, Viral
  • Humans
  • Nucleoproteins / physiology*
  • RNA, Viral / biosynthesis*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Ribonucleoproteins / physiology
  • Viral Core Proteins / physiology*


  • NP protein, Influenza A virus
  • Nucleoproteins
  • RNA, Viral
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • Viral Core Proteins