The influenza virus polymerase complex, consisting of the PA, PB1, and PB2 subunits, is required for the transcription and replication of the influenza A viral genome. Previous studies have shown that PB1 serves as a core subunit to incorporate PA and PB2 into the polymerase complex by directly interacting with PA and PB2. Despite numerous attempts, largely involving biochemical approaches, a specific interaction between PA and PB2 subunits has yet to be detected. In the current study, we developed and utilized bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) to study protein-protein interactions in the assembly of the influenza A virus polymerase complex. Proof-of-concept experiments demonstrated that BiFC can specifically detect PA-PB1 interactions in living cells. Strikingly, BiFC demonstrated an interaction between PA and PB2 that has not been reported previously. Deletion-based BiFC experiments indicated that the N-terminal 100 amino acid residues of PA are responsible for the PA-PB2 interaction observed in BiFC. Furthermore, a detailed analysis of subcellular localization patterns and temporal nuclear import of PA-PB2 binary complexes suggested that PA and PB2 subunits interacted in the cytoplasm initially and were subsequently transported as a dimer into the nucleus. Taken together, results of our studies reveal a previously unknown PA-PB2 interaction and provide a framework for further investigation of the biological relevance of the PA-PB2 interaction in the polymerase activity and viral replication of influenza A virus
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