Emergence of distinct brome mosaic virus recombinants is determined by the polarity of the inoculum RNA

J Virol. 2012 May;86(9):5204-20. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00351-12. Epub 2012 Feb 22.


Despite overwhelming interest in the impact exerted by recombination during evolution of RNA viruses, the relative contribution of the polarity of inoculum templates remains poorly understood. Here, by agroinfiltrating Nicotiana benthamiana leaves, we show that brome mosaic virus (BMV) replicase is competent to initiate positive-strand [(+)-strand] synthesis on an ectopically expressed RNA3 negative strand [(-) strand] and faithfully complete the replication cycle. Consequently, we sought to examine the role of RNA polarity in BMV recombination by expressing a series of replication-defective mutants of BMV RNA3 in (+) or (-) polarity. Temporal analysis of progeny sequences revealed that the genetic makeup of the primary recombinant pool is determined by the polarity of the inoculum template. When the polarity of the inoculum template was (+), the recombinant pool that accumulated during early phases of replication was a mixture of nonhomologous recombinants. These are longer than the inoculum template length, and a nascent 3' untranslated region (UTR) of wild-type (WT) RNA1 or RNA2 was added to the input mutant RNA3 3' UTR due to end-to-end template switching by BMV replicase during (-)-strand synthesis. In contrast, when the polarity of the inoculum was (-), the progeny contained a pool of native-length homologous recombinants generated by template switching of BMV replicase with a nascent UTR from WT RNA1 or RNA2 during (+)-strand synthesis. Repair of a point mutation caused by polymerase error occurred only when the polarity of the inoculum template was (+). These results contribute to the explanation of the functional role of RNA polarity in recombination mediated by copy choice mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Base Sequence
  • Bromovirus / genetics*
  • Bromovirus / metabolism
  • Gene Order
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Genomic Instability
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Reassortant Viruses / genetics*
  • Reassortant Viruses / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Templates, Genetic
  • Tobacco / virology
  • Virus Replication / genetics


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • RNA, Viral
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase