PerspectiveVirology

Frameshifting to PA-X Influenza

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Science  13 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6091, pp. 164-165
DOI: 10.1126/science.1225539

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Summary

Influenza A virus (IAV) remains a major cause of human mortality and morbidity due to its remarkable genetic variability, which limits vaccine effectiveness. IAV's high intrinsic mutation rate is augmented by its segmented genome, which greatly facilitates beneficial interactions among its genes (1) and is likely a key to IAV's capacity to infect multiple mammalian and avian species. IAV must accomplish much with minimal genetic information—a mere 13.5 kilo-bases of RNA. To maximize its genome, IAV uses many tricks, including gene splicing, downstream translation initiation in normal or alternative overlapping frames, and, as Jagger et al. report on page 199 of this issue (2), ribosomal frameshifting, which generates a gene product that diminishes viral pathogenicity.