Selective and nonselective packaging of cellular RNAs in retrovirus particles

Samuel J. Rulli, Catherine S. Hibbert, Jane Mirro, Thoru Pederson, Shyam Biswal, Alan Rein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Assembly of retrovirus particles normally entails the selective encapsidation of viral genomic RNA. However, in the absence of packageable viral RNA, assembly is still efficient, and the released virus-like particles (termed "ψ-" particles) still contain roughly normal amounts of RNA. We have proposed that cellular mRNAs replace the genome in ψ- particles. We have now analyzed the mRNA content of ψ- and ψ+ murine leukemia virus (MLV) particles using both microarray analysis and real-time reverse transcription-PCR. The majority of mRNA species present in the virus-producing cells were also detected in ψ- particles. Remarkably, nearly all of them were packaged nonselectively; that is, their representation in the particles was simply proportional to their representation in the cells. However, a small number of low-abundance mRNAs were greatly enriched in the particles. In fact, one mRNA species was enriched to the same degree as ψ+ genomic RNA. Similar results were obtained with particles formed from the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Gag protein, and the same mRNAs were enriched in MLV and HIV-1 particles. The levels of individual cellular mRNAs were ∼5-to 10-fold higher in ψ- than in ψ+ MLV particles, in agreement with the idea that they are replacing viral RNA in the former. In contrast, signal recognition particle RNA was present at the same level in ψ- and ψ+ particles; a minor fraction of this RNA was weakly associated with genomic RNA in ψ+ MLV particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6623-6631
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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