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Virology. 2003 Aug 15;313(1):213-23.

The coat protein of prunus necrotic ringspot virus specifically binds to and regulates the conformation of its genomic RNA.

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Instituto de Biologia Molecular y Celular de Plantas, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia-CSIC, Avenida de los Naranjos s/n, E-46022 Valencia, Spain.


Binding of coat protein (CP) to the 3' nontranslated region (3'-NTR) of viral RNAs is a crucial requirement to establish the infection of Alfamo- and Ilarviruses. In vitro binding properties of the Prunus necrotic ringspot ilarvirus (PNRSV) CP to the 3'-NTR of its genomic RNA using purified E. coli- expressed CP and different synthetic peptides corresponding to a 26-residue sequence near the N-terminus were investigated by electrophoretic mobility shift assays. PNRSV CP bound to, at least, three different sites existing on the 3'-NTR. Moreover, the N-terminal region between amino acid residues 25 to 50 of the protein could function as an independent RNA-binding domain. Single exchange of some arginine residues by alanine eliminated the RNA-interaction capacity of the synthetic peptides, consistent with a crucial role for Arg residues common to many RNA-binding proteins possessing Arg-rich domains. Circular dichroism spectroscopy revealed that the RNA conformation is altered when amino-terminal CP peptides bind to the viral RNA. Finally, mutational analysis of the 3'-NTR suggested the presence of a pseudoknotted structure at this region on the PNRSV RNA that, when stabilized by the presence of Mg(2+), lost its capability to bind the coat protein. The existence of two mutually exclusive conformations for the 3'-NTR of PNRSV strongly suggests a similar regulatory mechanism at the 3'-NTR level in Alfamo- and Ilarvirus genera.

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