Structural complexity of Dengue virus untranslated regions: cis-acting RNA motifs and pseudoknot interactions modulating functionality of the viral genome

Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 May;41(9):5075-89. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt203. Epub 2013 Mar 26.


The Dengue virus (DENV) genome contains multiple cis-acting elements required for translation and replication. Previous studies indicated that a 719-nt subgenomic minigenome (DENV-MINI) is an efficient template for translation and (-) strand RNA synthesis in vitro. We performed a detailed structural analysis of DENV-MINI RNA, combining chemical acylation techniques, Pb(2+) ion-induced hydrolysis and site-directed mutagenesis. Our results highlight protein-independent 5'-3' terminal interactions involving hybridization between recognized cis-acting motifs. Probing analyses identified tandem dumbbell structures (DBs) within the 3' terminus spaced by single-stranded regions, internal loops and hairpins with embedded GNRA-like motifs. Analysis of conserved motifs and top loops (TLs) of these dumbbells, and their proposed interactions with downstream pseudoknot (PK) regions, predicted an H-type pseudoknot involving TL1 of the 5' DB and the complementary region, PK2. As disrupting the TL1/PK2 interaction, via 'flipping' mutations of PK2, previously attenuated DENV replication, this pseudoknot may participate in regulation of RNA synthesis. Computer modeling implied that this motif might function as autonomous structural/regulatory element. In addition, our studies targeting elements of the 3' DB and its complementary region PK1 indicated that communication between 5'-3' terminal regions strongly depends on structure and sequence composition of the 5' cyclization region.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Dengue Virus / genetics*
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleotide Motifs
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / chemistry
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry*
  • Untranslated Regions*


  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • RNA, Viral
  • Untranslated Regions