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author:("Kerber, roomy")
1.  Cross-Species Analysis of the Replication Complex of Old World Arenaviruses Reveals Two Nucleoprotein Sites Involved in L Protein Function▿ 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(23):12518-12528.
Lassa virus (LASV) causing hemorrhagic Lassa fever in West Africa, Mopeia virus (MOPV) from East Africa, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) are the main representatives of the Old World arenaviruses. Little is known about how the components of the arenavirus replication machinery, i.e., the genome, nucleoprotein (NP), and L protein, interact. In addition, it is unknown whether these components can function across species boundaries. We established minireplicon systems for MOPV and LCMV in analogy to the existing LASV system and exchanged the components among the three systems. The functional and physical integrity of the resulting complexes was tested by reporter gene assay, Northern blotting, and coimmunoprecipitation studies. The minigenomes, NPs, and L proteins of LASV and MOPV could be exchanged without loss of function. LASV and MOPV L protein was also active in conjunction with LCMV NP, while the LCMV L protein required homologous NP for activity. Analysis of LASV/LCMV NP chimeras identified a single LCMV-specific NP residue (Ile-53) and the C terminus of NP (residues 340 to 558) as being essential for LCMV L protein function. The defect of LASV and MOPV NP in supporting transcriptional activity of LCMV L protein was not caused by a defect in physical NP-L protein interaction. In conclusion, components of the replication complex of Old World arenaviruses have the potential to functionally and physically interact across species boundaries. Residue 53 and the C-terminal domain of NP are important for function of L protein during genome replication and transcription.
doi:10.1128/JVI.05091-11
PMCID: PMC3209397  PMID: 21917982
2.  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

Results 1-2 (2)