Dissecting RNA recombination in vitro: Role of RNA sequences and the viral replicase

Peter D. Nagy, Chunxia Zhang, Anne E. Simon

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94 Scopus citations


Molecular mechanisms of RNA recombination were studied in turnip crinkle carmovirus (TCV), which has a uniquely high recombination frequency and non-random crossover site distribution among the recombining TCV-associated satellite RNAs. To test the previously proposed replicase-driven template-switching mechanism for recombination, a partially purified TCV replicase preparation (RdRp) was programed with RNAs resembling the putative in vivo recombination intermediates. Analysis of the in vitro RdRp products revealed efficient generation of 3'-terminal extension products. Initiation of 3'-terminal extension occurred at or close to the base of a hairpin that was a recombination hotspot in vivo. Efficient generation of the 3'-terminal extension products depended on two factors: (i) a hairpin structure in the acceptor RNA region and (ii) a short base-paired region formed between the acceptor RNA and the nascent RNA synthesized from the donor RNA template. The hairpin structure bound to the RdRp, and thus is probably involved in its recruitment. The probable role of the base-paired region is to hold the 3' terminus near the RdRp bound to the hairpin structure to facilitate 3'-terminal extension. These regions were also required for in vivo RNA recombination between TCV-associated sat-RNA C and sat-RNA D, giving crucial and direct support for a replicase-driven template-switching mechanism of RNA recombination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2392-2403
Number of pages12
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 1998


  • Plant virus
  • Recombination
  • Replication
  • Satellite RNA
  • Template switching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology (all)


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