Mutagenesis has demonstrated a region in the human T-cell leukaemia virus type I (HTLV-I) 5′ leader RNA which, when deleted, abolishes stable RNA dimer formation . We have further mapped, using both transcribed and synthesized RNA, this site to a 37 base region, which dimerizes with high affinity. When deleted from an HTLV-I Gag–Pol-expressing plasmid which was co-transfected with an envelope protein expressor to produce virions capable of single round infection, the dimer linkage deletion did not affect viral protein production. In addition, virus infectivity was only slightly reduced, to approximately 75–80% of the wild-type.


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