RNA polymerase I transcription in transiently DNA-transfected cells has been used to express influenza virus vRNA molecules coding for chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) in an antisense orientation. Influenza virus superinfection provided viral RNA polymerase and other proteins required for transcriptional conversion of minus-strand vRNA into plus-strand viral mRNA molecules expressing CAT activity. This system has been used for analysis of the vRNA sequences which cooperatively constitute the vRNA promoter structure via nucleotide exchanges as well as deletions and insertions of both terminal segments. Several mutants caused greatly enhanced expression over wild-type levels, which was transmitted during serial passage of progeny virus. The data obtained for the mutations in various promoter elements support a model implicating double-stranded vRNA promoter structures in binding of viral polymerase, and in consecutive steps during initiation of RNA synthesis.


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