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author:("Jamal, said")
1.  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
2.  The Crystal Structures of Chikungunya and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus nsP3 Macro Domains Define a Conserved Adenosine Binding Pocket ▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(13):6534-6545.
Macro domains (also called “X domains”) constitute a protein module family present in all kingdoms of life, including viruses of the Coronaviridae and Togaviridae families. Crystal structures of the macro domain from the Chikungunya virus (an “Old World” alphavirus) and the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (a “New World” alphavirus) were determined at resolutions of 1.65 and 2.30 Å, respectively. These domains are active as adenosine di-phosphoribose 1″-phosphate phosphatases. Both the Chikungunya and the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus macro domains are ADP-ribose binding modules, as revealed by structural and functional analysis. A single aspartic acid conserved through all macro domains is responsible for the specific binding of the adenine base. Sequence-unspecific binding to long, negatively charged polymers such as poly(ADP-ribose), DNA, and RNA is observed and attributed to positively charged patches outside of the active site pocket, as judged by mutagenesis and binding studies. The crystal structure of the Chikungunya virus macro domain with an RNA trimer shows a binding mode utilizing the same adenine-binding pocket as ADP-ribose, but avoiding the ADP-ribose 1″-phosphate phosphatase active site. This leaves the AMP binding site as the sole common feature in all macro domains.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00189-09
PMCID: PMC2698539  PMID: 19386706

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