Biophysical analysis of influenza A virus RNA promoter at physiological temperatures

J Biol Chem. 2011 Jul 1;286(26):22965-70. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.239509. Epub 2011 May 9.


Each segment of the influenza A virus (IAV) genome contains conserved sequences at the 5'- and 3'-terminal ends, which form the promoter region necessary for polymerase binding and initiation of RNA synthesis. Although several models of interaction have been proposed it remains unclear if these two short, partially complementary, and highly conserved sequences can form a stable RNA duplex at physiological temperatures. First, our time-resolved FRET analysis revealed that a 14-mer 3'-RNA and a 15-mer 5'-RNA associate in solution, even at 42 °C. We also found that a nonfunctional RNA promoter containing the 3'-G3U mutation, as well as a promoter containing the compensatory 3'-G3U/C8A mutations, was able to form a duplex as efficiently as wild type. Second, UV melting analysis demonstrated that the wild-type and mutant RNA duplexes have similar stabilities in solution. We also observed an increase in thermostability for a looped promoter structure. The absence of differences in the stability and binding kinetics between wild type and a nonfunctional sequence suggests that the IAV promoter can be functionally inactivated without losing the capability to form a stable RNA duplex. Finally, using uridine specific chemical probing combined with mass spectrometry, we confirmed that the 5' and 3' sequences form a duplex which protects both RNAs from chemical modification, consistent with the previously published panhandle structure. These data support that these short, conserved promoter sequences form a stable complex at physiological temperatures, and this complex likely is important for polymerase recognition and viral replication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Hot Temperature
  • Influenza A virus / chemistry*
  • Influenza A virus / genetics
  • Influenza A virus / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / chemistry*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / genetics
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / metabolism
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry*
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / chemistry
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / genetics
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Virus Replication / physiology
  • Virus Replication / radiation effects


  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • RNA, Viral
  • Viral Proteins
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase