The 12 nucleotide conserved sequence at the 3' end of influenza A virion RNA is sufficient to function as a promoter in vitro. By introducing point mutations in all 12 positions of this promoter in model RNA templates and studying the efficiency of RNA synthesis in vitro, we show that only three nucleotides, residues 9, 10 and 11, are crucial for activity, although other nucleotides play a significant but less important role. Additions or deletions within the promoter are tolerated, resulting in either an increase or a decrease in promoter activity, depending on the mutation introduced; in some cases premature termination is caused. Taking these observations into account, a model for RNA polymerase binding and copying of the promoter is discussed.
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