Beet necrotic yellow vein virus RNA-3 and RNA-4, produced as full-length biologically active transcripts , can undergo spontaneous internal deletions when inoculated onto leaves along with RNA-1 and -2. The deletion process is specific, giving rise to only a few major species, and can be rapid; deleted forms appear after only one or two passages in leaves. In one of the shortened forms of RNA-4, the deletion precisely eliminated one copy of a 15 nucleotide (nt) direct sequence repeat from the full-length prototype sequence, suggesting that ‘copy-choice’ switching of the replicase-template complex from one repeat to the other during RNA replication was responsible for the generation of this deletion. The deletion found in a major shortened form of RNA-3, on the other hand, did not occur near sequence repeats but began with GU and ended with AG like a nuclear intron sequence. Thus it is possible that the deleted sequence has been removed by splicing. However, two other deletions that were characterized were not associated with either of these types of sequence feature. An approximately 600 nt 5′-terminally truncated non-encapsidated form of RNA-3 was also detected in infected plant tissue. The evidence suggests that it is a subgenomic RNA derived from RNA-3.


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