Deletion of the cytoplasmic tails of the influenza A virus spike glycoproteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA), has previously been shown to result in markedly defective virion morphogenesis (Jin et al., 1997, EMBO J. 16, 1236-1247). We have found that influenza A virus preparations lacking the HA and NA cytoplasmic tails (HAt-/NAt-) have a reduced vRNA to protein content, contain an increase in cellular RNA contaminants, and exhibit increased resistance to ultraviolet (UV) inactivation. There is also a direct correlation between abnormal virion morphology and reduced infectivity. The data suggest that the HAt-/NAt- virion population contains a broader range of number of packaged RNA segments than wild-type (wt) virus. Sucrose gradient centrifugation analysis indicated the presence of a subpopulation of virions with pronounced deformation in virion morphology and reduced infectivity. The role of the HA and NA cytoplasmic tails was examined further by using a trans-complementation assay and it was found that expression of wt HA and NA from cDNAs followed by HAt-/NAt- virus infection caused the formation of a pseudotype virus with wt sedimentation properties. Taken together the data indicate that the HA and NA cytoplasmic tails affect not only virion morphology but also proper genome packaging. (C) 2000 Academic Press.
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