Examination of the intestinal contents of free-living rats by PAGE revealed two sharply defined bands that could be stained by ethidium bromide or by silver nitrate with comparable intensities. The molecules forming these bands were susceptible to digestion by pancreatic RNase A but not by RNase T1 or by DNase I. Their lengths were estimated to be about 2.6 and 1.5 kbp, respectively, by comparison with rotavirus SA11 genome segments. They cosedimented in CsCl gradients at a density of 1.39 to 1.40 g/ml, together with uniform particles approximately 35 nm in diameter with indistinct surface structure. It is suggested that these particles represent an as yet undescribed virus with a bisegmented double-stranded RNA genome, for which the name ‘picobirnavirus’ is proposed.


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