Genetic evidence is presented which suggests the existence of an important structural element in the 5' noncoding region of avian retrovirus RNA. The proposed structure, which we term the U5-leader stem, is composed of sequences in the middle of U5 and in the leader, flanking the primer-binding site. U5 and leader mutations which would disrupt this structure caused a partial replication defect. However, nucleotide substitions in the leader, which would structurally compensate for a U5 deletion mutation, restored normal replication. Analysis of replication intermediates of viruses with the above mutations suggests that the U5-leader stem is required for efficient DNA synthesis in vivo and for initiation of DNA synthesis from the tRNA(Trp) primer in melittin-activated virions. However, this structure does not appear to be required for binding of the tRNA(Trp) primer to viral RNA. These results support a role for the U5-leader stem structure, independent of its primary sequence, in the initiation of retroviral replication.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science