Cells infected with seven different RNA mutants of Sindbis virus were found to accumulate a virus-specified polypeptide of mol. wt. 144000 (p144) during incubation at the non-permissive temperature, while at the same time synthesis of the virus structural proteins was drastically reduced. Mapping of the tryptic peptides of p144 showed that it contained the amino acid sequences of all the virus structural proteins. At the non-permissive temperature cells infected with the same seven mutants (out of 28 examined) also showed increased synthesis of 26S RNA, the mRNA for the virus structural proteins, relative to 42S RNA, and the virus genome, compared with infections by wild-type virus. We propose that both these phenotypic effects are the results of a single mutational step and that the primary defect in the processing of the virus structural protein precursor induces the relatively increased rate of synthesis of structural protein mRNA. Temperature-shift experiments with mutant-infected cells showed that p144 itself is not the agent of this effect. The failure of exposure to zinc ions to alter the RNA ratio in wild-type virus-infected cells suggested that the virus envelope proteins are not involved either, since their synthesis is preferentially inhibited under these circumstances. It is possible that it is the failure to synthesize the proper quantity of core protein in the mutant-infected cells which causes the shift of RNA synthesis in favour of structural protein mRNA.


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