The complete nucleotide sequence of a functional clone of the large polymerase (L) gene of bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) strain A51908 was determined by analysis of cloned cDNAs obtained from genomic and mRNAs. The BRSV L gene is 6573 nt in length and the derived polypeptide has 2162 aa. Alignment of the sequences of the BRSV L gene, and its encoded protein, with sequences of the L gene and protein of human respiratory syncytial virus strain A2 showed 77% identity at the nucleotide level and 84% identity at the amino acid level. By comparison, the L gene and protein of avian pneumovirus showed only 50% identity at the nucleotide level and 64% identity at the amino acid level. A minigenome was constructed to encode a BRSV vRNA analogue containing the gene for chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) under the control of putative BRSV transcription motifs and flanked by the BRSV genomic termini. Transfection of plasmids encoding the BRSV minigenome, nucleocapsid protein (N), phosphoprotein (P) and L protein, each under the control of T7 promoter, into cells infected with a vaccinia virus recombinant expressing the T7 RNA polymerase gave rise to CAT activity and progeny with the minigenome. This result indicates that the N, P and L proteins are necessary and sufficient for transcription and replication of the BRSV minigenome and are functional. Further, inclusion of small amounts of the M2 protein along with the N, P and L proteins greatly augmented minigenome transcription.


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