An in vitro network of intermolecular interactions between viral RNA segments of an avian H5N2 influenza A virus: comparison with a human H3N2 virus

Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Jan;41(2):1241-54. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks1181. Epub 2012 Dec 5.


The genome of influenza A viruses (IAV) is split into eight viral RNAs (vRNAs) that are encapsidated as viral ribonucleoproteins. The existence of a segment-specific packaging mechanism is well established, but the molecular basis of this mechanism remains to be deciphered. Selective packaging could be mediated by direct interaction between the vRNA packaging regions, but such interactions have never been demonstrated in virions. Recently, we showed that the eight vRNAs of a human H3N2 IAV form a single interaction network in vitro that involves regions of the vRNAs known to contain packaging signals in the case of H1N1 IAV strains. Here, we show that the eight vRNAs of an avian H5N2 IAV also form a single network of interactions in vitro, but, interestingly, the interactions and the regions of the vRNAs they involve differ from those described for the human H3N2 virus. We identified the vRNA sequences involved in five of these interactions at the nucleotide level, and in two cases, we validated the existence of the interaction using compensatory mutations in the interacting sequences. Electron tomography also revealed significant differences in the interactions taking place between viral ribonucleoproteins in H5N2 and H3N2 virions, despite their canonical '7 + 1' arrangement.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dogs
  • Electron Microscope Tomography
  • Influenza A Virus, H3N2 Subtype / genetics
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N2 Subtype / genetics*
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism*
  • Ribonucleoproteins / ultrastructure
  • Virion / ultrastructure
  • Virus Assembly*


  • RNA, Viral
  • Ribonucleoproteins