1887

Abstract

Hepatitis E virus (genus , family ) is one of the most important causes of acute hepatitis in adults, particularly among pregnant women, throughout Asia and Africa where mortality rates can be 20–30 %. Hepatitis E virus has a single-stranded positive-sense RNA genome that contains three translated ORFs. The two 3′ ORFs are translated from a subgenomic RNA. Functional RNA elements have been identified in and adjacent to the genomic 5′ and 3′ UTRs and in and around the intergenic region. Here we describe an additional RNA element that is located in a central region of ORF2. The RNA element is predicted to fold into two highly conserved stem–loop structures, ISL1 and ISL2. Mutations that disrupt the predicted structures, without altering the encoded amino acid sequence, result in a drastic reduction in capsid protein synthesis. This indicates that the RNA element plays an important role in one of the early steps of virus replication. The structures were further investigated using a replicon that expresses luciferase in place of the capsid protein. Single mutations in ISL2 severely reduced luciferase expression, but a pair of compensatory mutations that were predicted to restore the ISL2 structure, restored luciferase expression to near-WT levels, thus lending experimental support to the predicted structure. Nonetheless the precise role of the ISL1+ISL2 element remains unknown.

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2013-07-01
2020-01-26
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