We examined the 5' ends of Hantaan virus (HTN) genomes and mRNAs to gain insight into the manner in which these chains were initiated. Like those of all members of the family Bunyaviridae described so far, the HTN mRNAs contained 5' terminal extensions that were heterogeneous in both length and sequence, presumably because HTN also "cap snatches" host mRNAs to initiate the viral mRNAs. Unexpectedly, however, almost all of the mRNAs contained a G residue at position -1, and a large fraction also lacked precisely one of the three UAG repeats at the termini. The genomes, on the other hand, commenced with a U residue at position +1, but only 5' monophosphates were found here, indicating that these chains may not have initiated with UTP at this position. Taken together, these unusual findings suggest a prime-and-realign mechanism of chain initiation in which mRNAs are initiated with a G-terminated host cell primer and genomes with GTP, not at the 3' end of the genome template but internally (opposite the template C at position +3), and after extension by one or a few nucleotides, the nascent chain realigns backwards by virtue of the terminal sequence repeats, before processive elongation takes place. For genome initiation, an endonuclease, perhaps that involved in cap snatching, is postulated to remove the 5' terminal extension of the genome, leaving the 5' pU at position +1
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