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      Coronavirus N Protein N-Terminal Domain (NTD) Specifically Binds the Transcriptional Regulatory Sequence (TRS) and Melts TRS-cTRS RNA Duplexes

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          Abstract

          All coronaviruses (CoVs), including the causative agent of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), encode a nucleocapsid (N) protein that harbors two independent RNA binding domains of known structure, but poorly characterized RNA binding properties. We show here that the N-terminal domain (NTD) of N protein from mouse hepatitis virus (MHV), a virus most closely related to SARS-CoV, employs aromatic amino acid-nucleobase stacking interactions with a triple adenosine motif to mediate high-affinity binding to single-stranded RNAs containing the transcriptional regulatory sequence (TRS) or its complement (cTRS). Stoichiometric NTD fully unwinds a TRS-cTRS duplex that mimics a transiently formed transcription intermediate in viral subgenomic RNA synthesis. Mutation of the solvent-exposed Y127, positioned on the β-platform surface of our 1.75 Å structure, binds the TRS far less tightly and is severely crippled in its RNA unwinding activity. In contrast, the C-terminal domain (CTD) exhibits no RNA unwinding activity. Viruses harboring Y127A N mutation are strongly selected against and Y127A N does not support an accessory function in MHV replication. We propose that the helix melting activity of the coronavirus N protein NTD plays a critical accessory role in subgenomic RNA synthesis and other processes requiring RNA remodeling.

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          Most cited references 41

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          Nidovirus transcription: how to make sense...?

          Many positive-stranded RNA viruses use subgenomic mRNAs to express part of their genetic information. To produce structural and accessory proteins, members of the order Nidovirales (corona-, toro-, arteri- and roniviruses) generate a 3' co-terminal nested set of at least three and often seven to nine mRNAs. Coronavirus and arterivirus subgenomic transcripts are not only 3' co-terminal but also contain a common 5' leader sequence, which is derived from the genomic 5' end. Their synthesis involves a process of discontinuous RNA synthesis that resembles similarity-assisted RNA recombination. Most models proposed over the past 25 years assume co-transcriptional fusion of subgenomic RNA leader and body sequences, but there has been controversy over the question of whether this occurs during plus- or minus-strand synthesis. In the latter model, which has now gained considerable support, subgenomic mRNA synthesis takes place from a complementary set of subgenome-size minus-strand RNAs, produced by discontinuous minus-strand synthesis. Sense-antisense base-pairing interactions between short conserved sequences play a key regulatory role in this process. In view of the presumed common ancestry of nidoviruses, the recent finding that ronivirus and torovirus mRNAs do not contain a common 5' leader sequence is surprising. Apparently, major mechanistic differences must exist between nidoviruses, which raises questions about the functions of the common leader sequence and nidovirus transcriptase proteins and the evolution of nidovirus transcription. In this review, nidovirus transcription mechanisms are compared, the experimental systems used are critically assessed and, in particular, the impact of recently developed reverse genetic systems is discussed.
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            Systematic assembly of a full-length infectious cDNA of mouse hepatitis virus strain A59.

            A novel method was developed to assemble a full-length infectious cDNA of the group II coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus strain A59 (MHV-A59). Seven contiguous cDNA clones that spanned the 31.5-kb MHV genome were isolated. The ends of the cDNAs were engineered with unique junctions and assembled with only the adjacent cDNA subclones, resulting in an intact MHV-A59 cDNA construct of approximately 31.5 kb in length. The interconnecting restriction site junctions that are located at the ends of each cDNA are systematically removed during the assembly of the complete full-length cDNA product, allowing reassembly without the introduction of nucleotide changes. RNA transcripts derived from the full-length MHV-A59 construct were infectious, although transfection frequencies were enhanced 10- to 15-fold in the presence of transcripts encoding the nucleocapsid protein N. Plaque-purified virus derived from the infectious construct replicated efficiently and displayed similar growth kinetics, plaque morphology, and cytopathology in murine cells as did wild-type MHV-A59. Molecularly cloned viruses recognized the MHV receptor (MHVR) for docking and entry, and pretreatment of cells with monoclonal antibodies against MHVR blocked virus entry and replication. Cells infected with molecularly cloned MHV-A59 virus expressed replicase (gene 1) proteins identical to those of laboratory MHV-A59. Importantly, the molecularly cloned viruses contained three marker mutations that had been derived from the engineered component clones. Full-length infectious constructs of MHV-A59 will permit genetic modifications of the entire coronavirus genome, particularly in the replicase gene. The method has the potential to be used to construct viral, microbial, or eukaryotic genomes approaching several million base pairs in length and used to insert restriction sites at any given nucleotide in a microbial genome.
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              Overcoming expression and purification problems of RhoGDI using a family of "parallel" expression vectors.

              We describe the construction of expression vectors based on three of the most frequently used gene fusion affinity tags [glutathione S-transferase (GST), maltose binding protein (MBP), and the His6 peptide]. The polylinkers of pGEX4T1, pMal-c2, and a pET vector were replaced with the polylinker isolated from the baculovirus expression plasmid pFastBac. Once appropriate restriction sites have been introduced into a gene, it can be fused to all three affinity tags with little effort, allowing expression-screening experiments to be performed efficiently. We discuss the development and use of these vectors with respect to overcoming purification problems encountered for the RhoA GDP/GTP nucleotide dissociation inhibitor (RhoGDI) and their advantages over commercially available expression vectors. Copyright 1999 Academic Press.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                J Mol Biol
                J. Mol. Biol
                Journal of Molecular Biology
                Elsevier
                0022-2836
                1089-8638
                24 September 2009
                4 December 2009
                24 September 2009
                : 394
                : 3
                : 544-557
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-7102, USA
                [2 ]Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2128, USA
                [3 ]Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis, Texas A&M University System College of Medicine, College Station, TX 77843-4467, USA
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. giedroc@ 123456indiana.edu
                [†]

                Contributed equally to this work.

                Article
                S0022-2836(09)01167-X
                10.1016/j.jmb.2009.09.040
                2783395
                19782089
                Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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