The role of the stem-loop a rna promoter in flavivirus replication

Kyung H. Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


An essential challenge in the lifecycle of RNA viruses is identifying and replicating the viral genome amongst all the RNAs present in the host cell cytoplasm. Yet, how the viral polymerase selectively recognizes and copies the viral RNA genome is poorly understood. In flaviviruses, the 5-end of the viral RNA genome contains a 70 nucleotide-long stem-loop, called stem-loop A (SLA), which functions as a promoter for genome replication. During replication, flaviviral polymerase NS5 specifically recognizes SLA to both initiate viral RNA synthesis and to methylate the 5 guanine cap of the nascent RNA. While the sequences of this region vary between different flaviviruses, the three-way junction arrangement of secondary structures is conserved in SLA, suggesting that viruses recognize a common structural feature to replicate the viral genome rather than a particular sequence. To better understand the molecular basis of genome recognition by flaviviruses, we recently determined the crystal structures of flavivirus SLAs from dengue virus (DENV) and Zika virus (ZIKV). In this review, I will provide an overview of (1) flaviviral genome replication; (2) structures of viral SLA promoters and NS5 polymerases; and (3) and describe our current model of how NS5 polymerases specifically recognize the SLA at the 5 terminus of the viral genome to initiate RNA synthesis at the 3 terminus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1107
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Dengue virus
  • Flavivirus
  • Polymerase NS5
  • Stem-loop A (SLA)
  • Viral RNA promoter
  • Viral replication
  • Zika virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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