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1.  Crystallization and diffraction analysis of the SARS coronavirus nsp10–nsp16 complex 
The expression, purification and crystallization of the SARS coronavirus nsp16 RNA-cap AdoMet-dependent (nucleoside-2′O)-methyltransferase in complex with its activating factor nsp10 are reported.
To date, the SARS coronavirus is the only known highly pathogenic human coronavirus. In 2003, it was responsible for a large outbreak associated with a 10% fatality rate. This positive RNA virus encodes a large replicase polyprotein made up of 16 gene products (nsp1–16), amongst which two methyltransferases, nsp14 and nsp16, are involved in viral mRNA cap formation. The crystal structure of nsp16 is unknown. Nsp16 is an RNA-cap AdoMet-dependent (nucleoside-2′-O-)-methyltransferase that is only active in the presence of nsp10. In this paper, the expression, purification and crystallization of nsp10 in complex with nsp16 are reported. The crystals diffracted to a resolution of 1.9 Å resolution and crystal structure determination is in progress.
doi:10.1107/S1744309111002867
PMCID: PMC3053173  PMID: 21393853
SARS coronavirus; nsp10; nsp16
2.  Crystal Structure and Functional Analysis of the SARS-Coronavirus RNA Cap 2′-O-Methyltransferase nsp10/nsp16 Complex 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(5):e1002059.
Cellular and viral S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferases are involved in many regulated processes such as metabolism, detoxification, signal transduction, chromatin remodeling, nucleic acid processing, and mRNA capping. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus nsp16 protein is a S-adenosylmethionine-dependent (nucleoside-2′-O)-methyltransferase only active in the presence of its activating partner nsp10. We report the nsp10/nsp16 complex structure at 2.0 Å resolution, which shows nsp10 bound to nsp16 through a ∼930 Å2 surface area in nsp10. Functional assays identify key residues involved in nsp10/nsp16 association, and in RNA binding or catalysis, the latter likely through a SN2-like mechanism. We present two other crystal structures, the inhibitor Sinefungin bound in the S-adenosylmethionine binding pocket and the tighter complex nsp10(Y96F)/nsp16, providing the first structural insight into the regulation of RNA capping enzymes in (+)RNA viruses.
Author Summary
A novel coronavirus emerged in 2003 and was identified as the etiological agent of the deadly disease called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. This coronavirus replicates and transcribes its giant genome using sixteen non-structural proteins (nsp1-16). Viral RNAs are capped to ensure stability, efficient translation, and evading the innate immunity system of the host cell. The nsp16 protein is a RNA cap modifying enzyme only active in the presence of its activating partner nsp10. We have crystallized the nsp10/16 complex and report its crystal structure at atomic resolution. Nsp10 binds to nsp16 through a ∼930 Å2 activation surface area in nsp10, and the resulting complex exhibits RNA cap (nucleoside-2′-O)-methyltransferase activity. We have performed mutational and functional assays to identify key residues involved in catalysis and/or in RNA binding, and in the association of nsp10 to nsp16. We present two additional crystal structures, that of the known inhibitor Sinefungin bound in the SAM binding pocket, and that of a tighter complex made of the mutant nsp10(Y96F) bound to nsp16. Our study provides a basis for antiviral drug design as well as the first structural insight into the regulation of RNA capping enzymes in (+)RNA viruses.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002059
PMCID: PMC3102710  PMID: 21637813
3.  The Hexamer Structure of the Rift Valley Fever Virus Nucleoprotein Suggests a Mechanism for its Assembly into Ribonucleoprotein Complexes 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(5):e1002030.
Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV), a Phlebovirus with a genome consisting of three single-stranded RNA segments, is spread by infected mosquitoes and causes large viral outbreaks in Africa. RVFV encodes a nucleoprotein (N) that encapsidates the viral RNA. The N protein is the major component of the ribonucleoprotein complex and is also required for genomic RNA replication and transcription by the viral polymerase. Here we present the 1.6 Å crystal structure of the RVFV N protein in hexameric form. The ring-shaped hexamers form a functional RNA binding site, as assessed by mutagenesis experiments. Electron microscopy (EM) demonstrates that N in complex with RNA also forms rings in solution, and a single-particle EM reconstruction of a hexameric N-RNA complex is consistent with the crystallographic N hexamers. The ring-like organization of the hexamers in the crystal is stabilized by circular interactions of the N terminus of RVFV N, which forms an extended arm that binds to a hydrophobic pocket in the core domain of an adjacent subunit. The conformation of the N-terminal arm differs from that seen in a previous crystal structure of RVFV, in which it was bound to the hydrophobic pocket in its own core domain. The switch from an intra- to an inter-molecular interaction mode of the N-terminal arm may be a general principle that underlies multimerization and RNA encapsidation by N proteins from Bunyaviridae. Furthermore, slight structural adjustments of the N-terminal arm would allow RVFV N to form smaller or larger ring-shaped oligomers and potentially even a multimer with a super-helical subunit arrangement. Thus, the interaction mode between subunits seen in the crystal structure would allow the formation of filamentous ribonucleocapsids in vivo. Both the RNA binding cleft and the multimerization site of the N protein are promising targets for the development of antiviral drugs.
Author Summary
The Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV), a negative strand RNA virus spread by infected mosquitoes, affects livestock and humans who can develop a severe disease. We studied the structure of its nucleoprotein (N), which forms a filamentous coat that protects the viral RNA genome and is also required for RNA replication and transcription by the polymerase of the virus. We report the structure of the RVFV N protein at 1.6 Å resolution, which reveals hexameric rings with an external diameter of 100 Å that are formed by exchanges of N-terminal arms between the nearest neighbors. Electron microscopy of recombinant protein in complex with RNA shows that N also forms rings in solution. A reconstruction of the hexameric ring at 25 Å resolution is consistent with the hexamer structure determined by crystallography. We propose that slight structural variations would suffice to convert a ring-shaped oligomer into subunits with a super-helical arrangement and that this mode of protein-protein association forms the basis for the formation of filamentous ribonucleocapsids by this virus family. Both the RNA binding cleft and the multimerization site of the N protein can be targeted for the development of drugs against RVFV.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002030
PMCID: PMC3093367  PMID: 21589902
4.  The N-Terminal Domain of the Arenavirus L Protein Is an RNA Endonuclease Essential in mRNA Transcription 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(9):e1001038.
Arenaviridae synthesize viral mRNAs using short capped primers presumably acquired from cellular transcripts by a ‘cap-snatching’ mechanism. Here, we report the crystal structure and functional characterization of the N-terminal 196 residues (NL1) of the L protein from the prototypic arenavirus: lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. The NL1 domain is able to bind and cleave RNA. The 2.13 Å resolution crystal structure of NL1 reveals a type II endonuclease α/β architecture similar to the N-terminal end of the influenza virus PA protein. Superimposition of both structures, mutagenesis and reverse genetics studies reveal a unique spatial arrangement of key active site residues related to the PD…(D/E)XK type II endonuclease signature sequence. We show that this endonuclease domain is conserved and active across the virus families Arenaviridae, Bunyaviridae and Orthomyxoviridae and propose that the arenavirus NL1 domain is the Arenaviridae cap-snatching endonuclease.
Author Summary
The Arenaviridae virus family includes several life-threatening human pathogens that cause meningitis or hemorrhagic fever. These RNA viruses replicate and transcribe their genome using an RNA synthesis machinery for which no structural data currently exist. They synthesize viral mRNAs using short capped primers presumably acquired from cellular transcripts by a ‘cap-snatching’ mechanism thought to involve the large L protein, which carries RNA-dependent RNA polymerase signature sequences. Here, we report the crystal structure and functional characterization of an isolated N-terminal domain of the L protein (NL1) from the prototypic arenavirus: lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. The NL1 domain is able to bind and cleave RNA. The 2.13 Å resolution crystal structure of NL1 reveals a type II endonuclease α/β architecture similar to the N-terminal end of the influenza virus PA protein. Superimposition of both structures and mutagenesis studies reveal a unique spatial arrangement of key active site residues related to the PD…(D/E)XK type II endonuclease signature sequence. Reverse genetic studies show that mutation of active site residues selectively abolish transcription, not replication. We show that this endonuclease domain is conserved and active across the virus families: Arenaviridae, Bunyaviridae and Orthomyxoviridae and propose that the arenavirus NL1 domain is the Arenaviridae cap-snatching endonuclease.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001038
PMCID: PMC2940758  PMID: 20862324
5.  STRUCTURAL BASIS FOR THE ACTIN-BINDING FUNCTION OF MISSING-IN-METASTASIS 
Summary
The adaptor protein missing-in-metastasis (MIM) contains independent F- and G-actin-binding domains, consisting respectively of an N-terminal 250-aa IRSp53/MIM homology domain (IMD) and a C-terminal WASP-homology domain 2 (WH2). We determined the crystal structures of MIM’s IMD and that of its WH2 bound to actin. The IMD forms a dimer, with each subunit folded as an antiparallel three-helix bundle. This fold is related to that of the BAR domain. Like the BAR domain, the IMD has been implicated in membrane binding. Comparison of the structures reveals that the putative membrane-binding surfaces of the two domains have opposite curvatures, which could be directly linked to the type of curvature of the interacting membrane. The WH2 of MIM is longer than the prototypical WH2, interacting with all four subdomains of actin. We characterize a similar WH2 at the C-terminus of IRSp53 and propose that in these two proteins WH2 performs a scaffolding function.
doi:10.1016/j.str.2006.12.005
PMCID: PMC1853380  PMID: 17292833
6.  The modeled structure of the RNA dependent RNA polymerase of GBV-C Virus suggests a role for motif E in Flaviviridae RNA polymerases 
BMC Bioinformatics  2005;6:255.
Background
The Flaviviridae virus family includes major human and animal pathogens. The RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) plays a central role in the replication process, and thus is a validated target for antiviral drugs. Despite the increasing structural and enzymatic characterization of viral RdRps, detailed molecular replication mechanisms remain unclear. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major human pathogen difficult to study in cultured cells. The bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) is often used as a surrogate model to screen antiviral drugs against HCV. The structure of BVDV RdRp has been recently published. It presents several differences relative to HCV RdRp. These differences raise questions about the relevance of BVDV as a surrogate model, and cast novel interest on the "GB" virus C (GBV-C). Indeed, GBV-C is genetically closer to HCV than BVDV, and can lead to productive infection of cultured cells. There is no structural data for the GBV-C RdRp yet.
Results
We show in this study that the GBV-C RdRp is closest to the HCV RdRp. We report a 3D model of the GBV-C RdRp, developed using sequence-to-structure threading and comparative modeling based on the atomic coordinates of the HCV RdRp structure. Analysis of the predicted structural features in the phylogenetic context of the RNA polymerase family allows rationalizing most of the experimental data available. Both available structures and our model are explored to examine the catalytic cleft, allosteric and substrate binding sites.
Conclusion
Computational methods were used to infer evolutionary relationships and to predict the structure of a viral RNA polymerase. Docking a GTP molecule into the structure allows defining a GTP binding pocket in the GBV-C RdRp, such as that of BVDV. The resulting model suggests a new proposition for the mechanism of RNA synthesis, and may prove useful to design new experiments to implement our knowledge on the initiation mechanism of RNA polymerases.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-255
PMCID: PMC1283970  PMID: 16225688
7.  Essential Amino Acids of the Hantaan Virus N Protein in Its Interaction with RNA 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(15):10032-10039.
The nucleocapsid (N) protein of hantavirus encapsidates viral genomic and antigenomic RNAs. Previously, deletion mapping identified a central, conserved region (amino acids 175 to 217) within the Hantaan virus (HTNV) N protein that interacts with a high affinity with these viral RNAs (vRNAs). To further define the boundaries of the RNA binding domain (RBD), several peptides were synthesized and examined for the ability to bind full-length S-segment vRNA. Peptide 195-217 retained 94% of the vRNA bound by the HTNV N protein, while peptides 175-186 and 205-217 bound only 1% of the vRNA. To further explore which residues were essential for binding vRNA, we performed a comprehensive mutational analysis of the amino acids in the RBD. Single and double Ala substitutions were constructed for 18 amino acids from amino acids 175 to 217 in the full-length N protein. In addition, Ala substitutions were made for the three R residues in peptide 185-217. An analysis of protein-RNA interactions by electrophoretic mobility shift assays implicated E192, Y206, and S217 as important for binding. Chemical modification experiments showed that lysine residues, but not arginine or cysteine residues, contribute to RNA binding, which agreed with bioinformatic predictions. Overall, these data implicate lysine residues dispersed from amino acids 175 to 429 of the protein and three amino acids located in the RBD as essential for RNA binding.
doi:10.1128/JVI.79.15.10032-10039.2005
PMCID: PMC1181592  PMID: 16014963

Results 1-7 (7)