Cooperation between different RNA virus genomes produces a new phenotype

Yuta Shirogane, Shumpei Watanabe, Yusuke Yanagi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


An RNA virus population generally evolves rapidly under selection pressure, because of high error rates of the viral RNA polymerase. Measles virus, an enveloped RNA virus, has a fusion protein mediating fusion of the viral envelope with the cell membrane. Here we observe that a non-fusogenic recombinant measles virus evolves, after passages, into mutant viruses which regain the ability to induce membrane fusion. Unexpectedly, we identify a mutant virus possessing two types of genomes within a single virion: one genome encoding the wild-type fusion protein, the other a mutant version with a single amino-acid substitution. Neither the wild-type nor mutant protein by itself is able to mediate membrane fusion, but both together exhibit enhanced fusion activity through hetero-oligomer formation. Our results reveal a molecular mechanism for the 'cooperation' between different RNA virus genomes, which may have implications in viral evolution and in the evolution of other macromolecules.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1235
JournalNature communications
Publication statusPublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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