Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
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Academic Editor: Zhi-Ming Zheng
Upon integration into the host chromosome, retroviral gene expression requires transcription by the host RNA polymerase II, and viral messages are subject RNA processing events including 5'-end capping, pre-mRNA splicing, and polyadenylation. At a minimum, RNA splicing is required to generate the env mRNA, but viral replication requires substantial amounts of unspliced RNA to serve as mRNA and for incorporation into progeny virions as genomic RNA. Therefore, splicing has to be controlled to preserve the large unspliced RNA pool. Considering the current view that splicing and polyadenylation are coupled, the question arises as to how genome-length viral RNA is efficiently polyadenylated in the absence of splicing. Polyadenylation of many retroviral mRNAs is inefficient; in avian retroviruses, ~15% of viral transcripts extend into and are polyadenylated at downstream host genes, which often has profound biological consequences. Retroviruses have served as important models to study RNA processing and this review summarizes a body of work using avian retroviruses that has led to the discovery of novel RNA splicing and polyadenylation control mechanisms.