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A Complicated Message: Identification of a Novel PB1-Related Protein Translated from Influenza A Virus Segment 2 mRNA

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    Rights statement: Copyright © 2009, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8021-8031
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009


Influenza A virus segment 2 is known to encode two polypeptides in overlapping open reading frames: PB1, the polymerase, and PB1-F2, a proapoptotic virulence factor. We show that a third major polypeptide is synthesized from PB1 mRNA via differential AUG codon usage. PB1 codon 40 directs translation of an N-terminally truncated version of the polypeptide (N40) that lacks transcriptase function but nevertheless interacts with PB2 and the polymerase complex in the cellular environment. Importantly, the expression of N40, PB1-F2, and PB1 are interdependent, and certain mutations previously used to ablate PB1-F2 production affected N40 accumulation. Removal of the PB1-F2 AUG upregulated N40 synthesis, while truncating PB1-F2 after codon 8 ( with a concomitant M40I change in PB1) abolished N40 expression. A virus lacking both N40 and PB1-F2 replicated normally. However, viruses that did not express N40 but retained an intact PB1-F2 gene overexpressed PB1 early in infection and replicated slowly in tissue culture. Thus, the influenza A virus proteome includes a 12th primary translation product that (similarly to PB1-F2) is nonessential for virus viability but whose loss, in particular genetic backgrounds, is detrimental to virus replication.

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