Nucleic acids research

Sequential packaging of RNA genomic segments during the assembly of Bluetongue virus.

PMID 25428366


Bluetongue virus (BTV), a member of the Orbivirus genus within the Reoviridae family, has a genome of 10 double-stranded RNA segments, with three distinct size classes. Although the packaging of the viral genome is evidently highly specific such that every virus particle contains a set of 10 RNA segments, the order and mechanism of packaging are not understood. In this study we have combined the use of a cell-free in vitro assembly system with a novel RNA-RNA interaction assay to investigate the mechanism of single-stranded (ss) RNAs packaging during nascent capsid assembly. Exclusion of single or multiple ssRNA segments in the packaging reaction or their addition in different order significantly altered the outcome and suggested a particular role for the smallest segment, S10. Our data suggests that genome packaging probably initiates with the smallest segment which triggers RNA-RNA interaction with other smaller segments forming a complex network. Subsequently, the medium to larger size ssRNAs are recruited until the complete genome is packaging into the capsid. The untranslated regions of the smallest RNA segment, S10, is critical for the instigation of this process. We suggest that the selective packaging observed in BTV may also apply to other members of the Reoviridae family.