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.
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.