Xrn1-resistant RNA structures are well-conserved within the genus flavivirus
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Subgenomic RNAs are produced by several RNA viruses through incomplete degradation of their genomic RNA by the exoribonuclease Xrn1, and have been shown to be essential for viral growth and pathogenicity. Within the flavivirus genus of the Flaviviridae family, two distinct classes of Xrn1-resistant RNA motifs have been proposed; one for mosquito-borne and insect-specific flaviviruses, and one for tick-borne flaviviruses and no-known-vector flaviviruses. We investigated tick-borne and no-known-vector flavivirus Xrn1-resistant RNA motifs through systematic in vitro mutational analysis and showed that both classes actually possess very similar structural configurations, including a double pseudoknot and a base-triple at identical, conserved locations. For the no-known-vector flavivirus Modoc virus, we show that in vivo generation of subgenomic flaviviral RNA was affected by mutations targeted at nucleotides involved in the structural features of flaviviral Xrn1-resistant RNA motifs that were defined in this work. Our results suggest that throughout the genus flavivirus Xrn1-resistant RNA motifs adopt the same topologically conserved structure.