Stabilization of a single-stranded DNA of adeno-associated virus by inverted terminal repeats

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Parvoviruses have evolved to possess a linear single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) genome ranging from 4 to 6.3 kb. Adeno-associated virus (AAV), a member of the Parvoviridae family, contains approximately 5 kb of linear ssDNA within its capsid. This ssDNA features two 145-base inverted terminal repeats (ITRs) positioned at each end. ITRs have a T-shaped hairpin secondary structure, which plays a crucial role in viral replication. To investigate the impact of ITRs on ssDNA stability, we conducted a DNA denaturation-reannealing assay in 10 mM magnesium acetate, 50 mM potassium acetate, and 20 mM Tris-acetate buffer at pH7.9. Conventional double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) fragments retain a reannealing capability of over 50% for sizes under 8.8 kb, gradually losing this capability as sizes increase; however, dsDNA fragments in rAAV ranging from 0.7 to 6.3 kb did not exhibit a reannealing profile. This suggests that the presence of ITRs at both ends hinders annealing between the complementary strands. These results indicate that ITR structures preferentially induce an ssDNA conformation less than 6.3 kb in size, and that the stability of AAV ssDNA contributes to the viral life cycle, including processes such as infection, replication, and packaging. Considering the size of parvovirus genomes, it appears that their genomes require reversible flexibility in complementary DNA strands; simultaneously, this adaptability needs to be regulated by specific palindromic ITRs at both ends.

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