Journal of virology

Comparison of polymerase subunits from double-stranded RNA bacteriophages.

PMID 11602748


The family Cystoviridae comprises several bacteriophages with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) genomes. We have previously purified the catalytic polymerase subunit (Pol) of one of the Cystoviridae members, bacteriophage phi6, and shown that the protein can catalyze RNA synthesis in vitro. In this reaction, both bacteriophage-specific and heterologous RNAs can serve as templates, but those containing 3' termini from the phi6 minus strands are favored. This provides a molecular basis for the observation that only plus strands, not minus strands, are transcribed from phi6 dsRNA segments in vivo. To test whether such a regulatory mechanism is also found in other dsRNA viruses, we purified recombinant Pol subunits from the phi6-related bacteriophages phi8 and phi13 and assayed their polymerase activities in vitro. The enzymes catalyze template-dependent RNA synthesis using both single-stranded-RNA (ssRNA) and dsRNA templates. However, they differ from each other as well as from phi6 Pol in certain biochemical properties. Notably, each polymerase demonstrates a distinct preference for ssRNAs bearing short 3'-terminal sequences from the virus-specific minus strands. This suggests that, in addition to other factors, RNA transcription in Cystoviridae is controlled by the template specificity of the polymerase subunit.