Members of the Reoviridae family are non-enveloped multi-layered viruses with a double stranded RNA genome consisting of 9 to 12 genome segments. Bluetongue virus is the prototype orbivirus (family Reoviridae, genus Orbivirus), causing disease in ruminants, and is spread by Culicoides biting midges. Obviously, several steps in the Reoviridae family replication cycle require virus specific as well as segment specific recognition by viral proteins, but detailed processes in these interactions are still barely understood. Recently, we have shown that expression of NS3 and NS3a proteins encoded by genome segment 10 of bluetongue virus is not essential for virus replication. This gave us the unique opportunity to investigate the role of RNA sequences in the segment 10 open reading frame in virus replication, independent of its protein products. Reverse genetics was used to generate virus mutants with deletions in the open reading frame of segment 10. Although virus with a deletion between both start codons was not viable, deletions throughout the rest of the open reading frame led to the rescue of replicating virus. However, all bluetongue virus deletion mutants without functional protein expression of segment 10 contained inserts of RNA sequences originating from several viral genome segments. Subsequent studies showed that these RNA inserts act as RNA elements, needed for rescue and replication of virus. Functionality of the inserts is orientation-dependent but is independent from the position in segment 10. This study clearly shows that RNA in the open reading frame of Reoviridae members does not only encode proteins, but is also essential for virus replication. © 2014 Feenstra et al.
Feenstra, F., Van Gennip, R. G. P., Van De Water, S. G. P., & Van Rijn, P. A. (2014). RNA elements in open reading frames of the bluetongue virus genome are essential for virus replication. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0092377