Characteristics of the arenaviruses and their antigens

The arenaviruses are enveloped viruses with two single-stranded RNA genomic segments. They are classified as 'negative-strand viruses' because their genomic RNA cannot function as a messenger RNA, i.e. transcription by the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) must precede translation. The arenaviruses encode four gene products; a nucleo-capsid protein (NP) that encapsidates the genomic RNA, an envelope glycoprotein (GP) that undergoes a maturation cleavage to become GP1 and GP2, a small zinc-binding protein (Z) and a large RdRp (L). The small (S) RNA segment is 3.4 kb and encodes

GP and NP in an ambisense arrangement (using sense and antisense (complementary) mRNAs). The large (L) RNA segment is 7.2 kb and encodes the Z and L proteins, also in an ambisense arrangement. The morphological characteristics of arenaviruses are depicted in Figure 1.

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