Cooperation of an RNA packaging signal and a viral envelope protein in coronavirus RNA packaging

K. Narayanan, S. Makino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Murine coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) produces a genome-length mRNA, mRNA 1, and six or seven species of subgenomic mRNAs in infected cells. Among these mRNAs, only mRNA 1 is efficiently packaged into MHV particles. MHV N protein binds to all MHV mRNAs, whereas envelope M protein interacts only with mRNA 1. This M protein-mRNA 1 interaction most probably determines the selective packaging of mRNA 1 into MHV particles. A short cis-acting MHV RNA packaging signal is necessary and sufficient for packaging RNA into MHV particles. The present study tested the possibility that the selective M protein-mRNA 1 interaction is due to the packaging signal in mRNA 1. Regardless of the presence or absence of the packaging signal, N protein bound to MHV defective interfering RNAs and intracellularly expressed non-MHV RNA transcripts to form ribonucleoprotein complexes; M protein, however, interacted selectively with RNAs containing the packaging signal. Moreover, only the RNA that interacted selectively with M protein was efficiently packaged into MHV particles. Thus, it was the packaging signal that mediated the selective interaction between M protein and viral RNA to drive the specific packaging of RNA into virus particles. This is the first example for any RNA virus in which a viral envelope protein and a known viral RNA packaging signal have been shown to determine the specificity and selectivity of RNA packaging into virions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9059-9067
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number19
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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