Diverse Gene Junctions of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Modulate the Efficiency of Transcription Termination and Respond Differently to M2-Mediated Antitermination
Journal of Virology
The ability of the diverse gene junctions of respiratory syncytial (RS) virus to signal the termination of transcription was analyzed. Nine dicistronic subgenomic replicons of RS virus were constructed; each contained one of the RS virus gene junctions in its natural upstream and downstream sequence context. The RNA synthesis activities of these subgenomic replicons were analyzed in the absence and presence of the M2 protein, which we showed previously to function as a transcription
... ription antiterminator. Our data showed that the efficiency with which the polymerase terminated transcription was affected by the gene junction that it encountered. The M2 protein significantly decreased the efficiency of the termination of transcription, resulting in increased levels of readthrough transcription at all the gene junctions. The diverse gene junctions fell into three broad groups with respect to their ability to signal transcription termination. One group of gene junctions (NS1/NS2, NS2/N, M2/L, and L/trailer) showed inefficient termination in the absence or the presence of the M2 protein. A second group of gene junctions (N/P, P/M, M/SH, SH/G, and G/F) terminated transcription efficiently. The SH/G gene junction terminated transcription with the greatest efficiency and produced low levels of readthrough transcripts in the absence or the presence of the M2 protein, correlating with the absence of SH/G polycistronic transcripts in RS virus-infected cells. The F/M2 gene junction was particularly sensitive to the M2 protein: it efficiently signaled termination in the absence of the M2 protein but produced high levels of readthrough transcripts in the presence of the M2 protein. This result suggests that the M2 protein may regulate its own production by negative feedback. The data presented here show that the different gene junctions of RS virus do modulate RS virus transcription termination. The M2 protein reduced termination at all gene junctions. The magnitude of antitermination due to the M2 protein, however, varied at the different gene junctions. The data presented here indicate that the mechanism for the regulation of RS virus gene expression is more complex than was previously appreciated.