The Bunyaviridae represents the largest family of segmented RNA viruses, which infect a staggering diversity of plants, animals, and insects. Within the family Bunyaviridae, the Phlebovirus genus includes several important human and animal pathogens, including Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV), severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV), Uukuniemi virus (UUKV), and the sandfly fever viruses. The phleboviruses have small tripartite RNA genomes that encode a repertoire of 5–7 proteins. These few proteins accomplish the daunting task of recognizing and specifically packaging a tri-segment complement of viral genomic RNA in the midst of an abundance of host components. The critical nucleation events that eventually lead to virion production begin early on in the host cytoplasm as the first strands of nascent viral RNA (vRNA) are synthesized. The interaction between the vRNA and the viral nucleocapsid (N) protein effectively protects and masks the RNA from the host, and also forms the ribonucleoprotein (RNP) architecture that mediates downstream interactions and drives virion formation. Although the mechanism by which all three genomic counterparts are selectively co-packaged is not completely understood, we are beginning to understand the hierarchy of interactions that begins with N-RNA packaging and culminates in RNP packaging into new virus particles. In this review we focus on recent progress that highlights the molecular basis of RNA genome packaging in the phleboviruses.
- RNA packaging