Rubella virus-like replicon particles: analysis of encapsidation determinants and non-structural roles of capsid protein in early post-entry replication

J Gen Virol. 2012 Mar;93(Pt 3):516-525. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.038984-0. Epub 2011 Nov 23.


Rubella virus (RUBV) contains a plus-strand RNA genome with two ORFs, one encoding the non-structural replicase proteins (NS-ORF) and the second encoding the virion structural proteins (SP-ORF). This study describes development and use of a trans-encapsidation system for the assembly of infectious RUBV-like replicon particles (VRPs) containing RUBV replicons (self replicating genomes with the SP-ORF replaced with a reporter gene). First, this system was used to map signals within the RUBV genome that mediate packaging of viral RNA. Mutations within a proposed packaging signal did not significantly affect relative packaging efficiency. The insertion of various fragments derived from the RUBV genome into Sindbis virus replicons revealed that there are several regions within the RUBV genome capable of enhancing encapsidation of heterologous replicon RNAs. Secondly, the trans-encapsidation system was used to analyse the effect of alterations within the capsid protein (CP) on release of VRPs and subsequent initiation of replication in newly infected cells. Deletion of the N-terminal eight amino acids of the CP reduced VRP titre significantly, which could be partially complemented by native CP provided in trans, indicating that this mutation affected an entry or post-entry event in the replication cycle. To test this hypothesis, the trans-encapsidation system was used to demonstrate the rescue of a lethal deletion within P150, one of the virus replicase proteins, by CP contained within the virus particle. This novel finding substantiated the functional role of CP in early post-entry replication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capsid Proteins / genetics
  • Capsid Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Replicon
  • Rubella virus / physiology*
  • Sequence Deletion
  • Sindbis Virus
  • Virus Assembly*
  • Virus Replication*


  • Capsid Proteins
  • RNA, Viral