The 12 nucleotide conserved sequence at the 3′ end of influenza A virion RNA is sufficient to function as a promoter . By introducing point mutations in all 12 positions of this promoter in model RNA templates and studying the efficiency of RNA synthesis , we show that only three nucleotides, residues 9, 10 and 11, are crucial for activity, although other nucleotides play a significant but less important role. Additions or deletions within the promoter are tolerated, resulting in either an increase or a decrease in promoter activity, depending on the mutation introduced; in some cases premature termination is caused. Taking these observations into account, a model for RNA polymerase binding and copying of the promoter is discussed.


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