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J Virol. 2013 Jun;87(12):6975-85. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00043-13. Epub 2013 Apr 10.

The N terminus of Andes virus L protein suppresses mRNA and protein expression in mammalian cells.

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  • 1Department of Virology, Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg, Germany.


Little is known about the structure and function of the 250-kDa L protein of hantaviruses, although it plays a central role in virus genome transcription and replication. When attempting to study Andes virus (ANDV) L protein in mammalian cells, we encountered difficulties. Even in a strong overexpression system, ANDV L protein could not be detected by immunoblotting. Deletion analysis revealed that the 534 N-terminal amino acid residues determine the low-expression phenotype. Inhibition of translation due to RNA secondary structures around the start codon, rapid proteasomal degradation, and reduced half-life time were excluded. However, ANDV L protein expression could be rescued upon mutation of the catalytic PD-E-K motif and further conserved residues of the putative endonuclease at the N terminus of the protein. In addition, wild-type ANDV L rather than expressible L mutants suppressed the level of L mRNA, as well as reporter mRNAs. Wild-type L protein also reduced the synthesis of cellular proteins in the high-molecular-weight range. Using expressible ANDV L mutants as a tool for localization studies, we show that L protein colocalizes with ANDV N and NSs but not Gc protein. A fraction of L protein also colocalized with the cellular processing (P) body component DCP1a. Overall, these data suggest that ANDV L protein possesses a highly active endonuclease at the N terminus suppressing the level of its own as well as heterologous mRNAs upon recombinant expression in mammalian cells.

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