Rubella virus (RV) genome encodes nonstructural protein (NSP) in a large open reading frame at its 5′ end. It is translated into p200 and further processed into p150 and p90. The NSPs are responsible for viral RNA replication, during which a full-length negative-strand RNA serves as the intermediate for the replication of positive-strand genomic RNA and the transcription of subgenomic RNA. Using complementation experiments, we demonstrated that RV negative-strand RNA is synthesized preferentially in cis while positive-strand RNAs can be synthesized both in cis and in trans but with higher efficiency in cis. During virus infection, negative-strand RNA accumulates until 10 hours postinfection (hpi) and remains nearly constant thereafter. In contrast, positive-strand RNAs (both genomic and subgenomic RNA) do not increase much before 10 hpi and accumulate rapidly thereafter. Previously we demonstrated that p200 synthesizes negative- but not positive-strand RNA, whereas cleavage products p150/p90 are required for efficient production of positive-strand RNAs. In this study, we present evidence demonstrating that a higher concentration of p150/p90 is associated with lower production of negative-strand RNA. Our data support the hypothesis that p200 is the principal replicase for negative-strand RNA, as is p150/p90 for positive-strand RNA. The switch from the synthesis of negative- to positive-strand RNA is thus regulated by NSP processing, which not only activates the efficient production of positive-strand RNA, but also disables negative-strand RNA synthesis. A mechanism for NSP translation, processing, and regulation of RV RNA synthesis is proposed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the Medical Research Council of Canada. Y.L. is supported by a studentship from the British Columbia Children’s Hospital Foundation. S.G. is an investigator of the British Columbia Children’s Hospital Foundation. We are grateful to J. Yao for technical assistance.