Date: 08 Nov 2011

Bunyavirus: Structure and Replication

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Abstract

The Bunyaviridae family is comprised of a large number of negative-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses that infect animals, insects, and plants. The tripartite genome of bunyaviruses, encapsidated in the form of individual ribonucleoprotein complexes, encodes four structural proteins, the glycoproteins Gc and Gn, the nucleoprotein N, and the viral polymerase L. Some bunyaviruses also use an ambi-sense strategy to encode the nonstructural proteins NSs and NSm. While some bunyaviruses have a T = 12 icosahedral symmetry, others only have locally ordered capsids, or capsids with no detectable symmetry. Bunyaviruses enter cells through clathrin-mediated endocytosis or phagocytosis. In endosome, viral glycoproteins facilitate membrane fusion at acidic pH, thus allowing bunyaviruses to uncoat and deliver their genomic RNA into host cytoplasm. Bunyaviruses replicate in cytoplasm where the viral polymerase L catalyzes both transcription and replication of the viral genome. While transcription requires a cap primer for initiation and ends at specific termination signals before the 3′ end of the template is reached, replication copies the entire template and does not depend on any primer for initiation. This review will discuss some of the most interesting aspects of bunyavirus replication, including L protein/N protein-mediated cap snatching, prime-and-realign for transcription and replication initiation, translation-coupled transcription, sequence/secondary structure-dependent transcription termination, ribonucleoprotein encapsidation, and N protein-mediated initiation of viral protein translation. Recent developments on the structure and functional characterization of the bunyavirus capsid and the RNA synthesis machineries (including both protein L and N) will also be discussed.