Defective assembly of influenza A virus due to a mutation in the polymerase subunit PA

John F. Regan, Yuying Liang, Tristram G. Parslow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations


The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of influenza A virus is composed of three subunits that together synthesize all viral mRNAs and also replicate the viral genomic RNA segments (vRNAs) through intermediates known as cRNAs. Here we describe functional characterization of 16 site-directed mutants of one polymerase subunit, termed PA. In accord with earlier studies, these mutants exhibited diverse, mainly quantitative impairments in expressing one or more classes of viral RNA, with associated infectivity defects of varying severity. One PA mutant, however, targeting residues 507 and 508, caused only modest perturbations of RNA expression yet completely eliminated the formation of plaque-forming virus. Polymerases incorporating this mutant, designated J10, proved capable of synthesizing translationally active mRNAs and of replicating diverse cRNA or vRNA templates at levels compatible with viral infectivity. Both the mutant protein and its RNA products were appropriately localized in the cytoplasm, where influenza virus assembly occurs. Nevertheless, J10 failed to generate infectious particles from cells in a plasmid-based influenza virus assembly assay, and hemagglutinating material from the supernatants of such cells contained little or no nuclease-resistant genomic RNA. These findings suggest that PA has a previously unrecognized role in assembly or release of influenza virus virions, perhaps influencing core structure or the packaging of vRNAs or other essential components into nascent influenza virus particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-261
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006

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