BACKGROUND: The transcription/replication of the influenza viruses implicate the terminal nucleotide sequences of viral RNA, which comprise sequences at the extremities conserved among the genomic segments as well as variable 3' and 5' non-coding (NC) regions. The plasmid-based system for the in vivo reconstitution of functional ribonucleoproteins, upon expression of viral-like RNAs together with the nucleoprotein and polymerase proteins has been widely used to analyze transcription/replication of influenza viruses. It was thus shown that the type A polymerase could transcribe and replicate type A, B, or C vRNA templates whereas neither type B nor type C polymerases were able to transcribe and replicate type A templates efficiently. Here we studied the importance of the NC regions from the seven segments of type C influenza virus for efficient transcription/replication by the type A and C polymerases.
RESULTS: The NC sequences of the seven genomic segments of the type C influenza virus C/Johannesburg/1/66 strain were found to be more variable in length than those of the type A and B viruses. The levels of transcription/replication of viral-like vRNAs harboring the NC sequences of the respective type C virus segments flanking the CAT reporter gene were comparable in the presence of either type C or type A polymerase complexes except for the NS and PB2-like vRNAs. For the NS-like vRNA, the transcription/replication level was higher after introduction of a U residue at position 6 in the 5' NC region as for all other segments. For the PB2-like vRNA the CAT expression level was particularly reduced with the type C polymerase. Analysis of mutants of the 5' NC sequence in the PB2-like vRNA, the shortest 5' NC sequence among the seven segments, showed that additional sequences within the PB2 ORF were essential for the efficiency of transcription but not replication by the type C polymerase complex.
CONCLUSION: In the context of a PB2-like reporter vRNA template, the sequence upstream the polyU stretch plays a role in the transcription/replication process by the type C polymerase complex.