Negative-sense (NS) RNA viruses deliver into cells a megadalton RNA-protein complex competent for transcription. Within this complex, the RNA is protected in a nucleocapsid protein (NP) sheath which the viral polymerase negotiates during RNA synthesis. The NP-RNA templates come as nonsegmented (NNS) or segmented (SNS), necessitating distinct strategies for transcription by their polymerases. Atomic-level understanding of the NP-RNA of both NNS and SNS RNA viruses show that the RNA must be transiently dissociated from NP during RNA synthesis. Here we summarize and compare the polymerases of NNS and SNS RNA viruses, and the current structural data on the polymerases. Those comparisons inform us on the evolution of related RNA synthesis machines which use two distinct mechanisms for mRNA cap formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-110
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Opinion in Virology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013


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