Mechanisms of Mononegavirales gene expression
Hayward, Oliver James
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The Mononegavirales order unifies the non-segmented negative sense viruses (nsNSVs), including Marburgvirus (MARV) of the Filoviridae family and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) of the Pneumoviridae. The mechanism of action of these viruses and how they infect cells are very similar, especially when focusing on their polymerases, which are distinct from those of eukaryotes and therefore possible targets for antiviral drugs. nsNSVs utilize a RNA-dependent RNA polymerase to either replicate the viral RNA genome or transcribe it into positive sense mRNA. Despite this, these two viruses result in very different, but equally devastating, effects in humans. Whereas MARV virus often results in rare but fatal hemorrhagic fevers, RSV is a common seasonal virus that can result in long term negative effects to respiratory health. These negative effects on public health demand extensive research in these two fields and a need to develop new technology and methods in order to uncover the missing pieces of viral gene expression. Specifically, the development of a MARV minigenome system would allow for increased testing of this virus outside of the confines of the biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) setting. By replacing MARV genes with reporter genes, but retaining the characteristic leader, intergenic, and trailer regions of the genome, tests involving site directed mutagenesis would reveal new insights into the crucial genomic elements needed for successful gene expression. Coupled with the transfection of the minigenome with plasmids coding for the crucial MARV proteins, artificial changes to the genome would lead to the presence of absence of translated bioluminescent reporter proteins. Using these two viruses, this study attempted to find commonalities across families. Specifically, the goals of this research were twofold, to find the optimal ratio of MARV plasmids in the minigenome system to understand the effects of the stem-loop secondary structure of MARV mRNA transcripts as well as determine the tail length of the poly(A) tail of RSV mRNA transcripts using digestion and probing primers. Calculating the RSV poly(A) tail length would allow for further research into determining whether the MARV and RSV polymerase polyadenylates before or after it releases the transcript. Despite multiple failed attempts, transfections using pCAGGS plasmids and the eGFP monocistronic minigenome in a 6-well plate qualitatively demonstrated the need for pCAGGS-L plasmid concentration of 1000 ng/µl. Due to time constraints, the poly(A) tail length of the RSV NS-1 mRNA transcript could not be determined. Overall, this study focused on gaining new insights on the techniques and procedures necessary for conducting virus research in a biosafety level 2 (BSL-2) setting, as well as developing troubleshooting skills in approaching fail experiments.