Pervasive RNA folding is crucial for narnavirus genome maintenance

Makiha Fukuda, Jitong Cai, Joel S. Bader, Jef D. Boeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A synthetic biology approach toward constructing an RNA-based genome expands our understanding of living things and opens avenues for technological advancement. For the precise design of an artificial RNA replicon either from scratch or based on a natural RNA replicon, understanding structure–function relationships of RNA sequences is critical. However, our knowledge remains limited to a few particular structural elements intensively studied so far. Here, we conducted a series of site-directed mutagenesis studies of yeast narnaviruses ScNV20S and ScNV23S, perhaps the simplest natural autonomous RNA replicons, to identify RNA elements required for maintenance and replication. RNA structure disruption corresponding to various portions of the entire narnavirus genome suggests that pervasive RNA folding, in addition to the precise secondary structure of genome termini, is essential for maintenance of the RNA replicon in vivo. Computational RNA structure analyses suggest that this scenario likely applies to other “narna-like" viruses. This finding implies selective pressure on these simplest autonomous natural RNA replicons to fold into a unique structure that acquires both thermodynamic and biological stability. We propose the importance of pervasive RNA folding for the design of RNA replicons that could serve as a platform for in vivo continuous evolution as well as an interesting model to study the origin of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2304082120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - 2023


  • RNA genome
  • RNA maintenance
  • RNA structure
  • RNA virus
  • narnavirus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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