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Journal of Virology


We characterized a novel 28S rRNA cleavage in cells infected with the murine coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus (MHV). The 28S rRNA cleavage occurred as early as 4 h postinfection (p.i.) in MHV-infected DBT cells, with the appearance of subsequent cleavage products and a decrease in the amount of intact 28S rRNA with increasing times of infection; almost all of the intact 28S rRNA disappeared by 24 h p.i. In contrast, no specific 18S rRNA cleavage was detected in infected cells. MHV-induced 28S rRNA cleavage was detected in all MHV-susceptible cell lines and all MHV strains tested. MHV replication was required for the 28S rRNA cleavage, and mature cytoplasmic 28S rRNA underwent cleavage. In certain combination of cells and viruses, pretreatment of virus-infected cells with interferon activates a cellular endoribonuclease, RNase L, that causes rRNA degradation. No interferon was detected in the inoculum used for MHV infection. Addition of anti-interferon antibody to MHV-infected cells did not inhibit 28S rRNA cleavage. Furthermore, 28S rRNA cleavage occurred in an MHV-infected mouse embryonic fibroblast cell line derived from RNase L knockout mice. Thus, MHV-induced 28S rRNA cleavage was independent of the activation of RNase L. MHV-induced 28S rRNA cleavage was also different from apoptosis-related rRNA degradation, which usually occurs concomitantly with DNA fragmentation. In MHV-infected 17Cl-1 cells, 28S rRNA cleavage preceded DNA fragmentation by at least 18 h. Blockage of apoptosis in MHV-infected 17Cl-1 cells by treatment with a caspase inhibitor did not block 28S rRNA cleavage. Furthermore, MHV-induced 28S rRNA cleavage occurred in MHV-infected DBT cells that do not show apoptotic signs, including activation of caspase-3 and DNA fragmentation. Thus, MHV-induced 28S rRNA cleavage appeared to differ from any rRNA degradation mechanism described previously.


This work was supported by Public Health Service grants AI29984 (to S.M.) and CA 44059 (to R.H.S.) from the National Institutes of Health.









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