The rotavirus (RV) genome comprises 11 segments of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and is contained within a non-enveloped, icosahedral particle. During assembly, a highly coordinated selective packaging mechanism ensures that progeny RV virions contain one of each genome segment. Cis-acting signals thought to mediate assortment and packaging are associated with putative panhandle structures formed by base-pairing of the ends of RV plus-strand RNAs (+RNAs). Viral polymerases within assembling core particles convert the 11 distinct +RNAs to dsRNA genome segments. It remains unclear whether RV +RNAs are assorted before or during encapsidation, and the functions of viral proteins during these processes are not resolved. However, as reviewed in this article, recent insights gained from the study of RV and two other segmented RNA viruses, influenza A virus and bacteriophage Φ6, reveal potential mechanisms of RV assortment and packaging.
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