Analysis of Paramyxovirus Transcription and Replication by High-Throughput Sequencing

J Virol. 2019 Aug 13;93(17):e00571-19. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00571-19. Print 2019 Sep 1.


We have developed a high-throughput sequencing (HTS) workflow for investigating paramyxovirus transcription and replication. We show that sequencing of oligo(dT)-selected polyadenylated mRNAs, without considering the orientation of the RNAs from which they had been generated, cannot accurately be used to analyze the abundance of viral mRNAs because genomic RNA copurifies with the viral mRNAs. The best method is directional sequencing of infected cell RNA that has physically been depleted of ribosomal and mitochondrial RNA followed by bioinformatic steps to differentiate data originating from genomes from viral mRNAs and antigenomes. This approach has the advantage that the abundance of viral mRNA (and antigenomes) and genomes can be analyzed and quantified from the same data. We investigated the kinetics of viral transcription and replication during infection of A549 cells with parainfluenza virus type 2 (PIV2), PIV3, PIV5, or mumps virus and determined the abundances of individual viral mRNAs and readthrough mRNAs. We found that the mRNA abundance gradients differed significantly between all four viruses but that for each virus the pattern remained relatively stable throughout infection. We suggest that rapid degradation of non-poly(A) mRNAs may be primarily responsible for the shape of the mRNA abundance gradient in parainfluenza virus 3, whereas a combination of this factor and disengagement of RNA polymerase at intergenic sequences, particularly those at the NP:P and P:M gene boundaries, may be responsible in the other viruses.IMPORTANCE High-throughput sequencing (HTS) of virus-infected cells can be used to study in great detail the patterns of virus transcription and replication. For paramyxoviruses, and by analogy for all other negative-strand RNA viruses, we show that directional sequencing must be used to distinguish between genomic RNA and mRNA/antigenomic RNA because significant amounts of genomic RNA copurify with poly(A)-selected mRNA. We found that the best method is directional sequencing of total cell RNA, after the physical removal of rRNA (and mitochondrial RNA), because quantitative information on the abundance of both genomic RNA and mRNA/antigenomes can be simultaneously derived. Using this approach, we revealed new details of the kinetics of virus transcription and replication for parainfluenza virus (PIV) type 2, PIV3, PIV5, and mumps virus, as well as on the relative abundance of the individual viral mRNAs.

Keywords: high-throughput sequencing; paramyxovirus; replication; transcription.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Genome Size
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Paramyxoviridae Infections / virology*
  • Paramyxovirinae / classification
  • Paramyxovirinae / pathogenicity
  • Paramyxovirinae / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Species Specificity
  • Virus Replication
  • Whole Genome Sequencing / methods*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral