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J Biol Chem. 2004 Mar 12;279(11):10624-33. Epub 2003 Dec 29.

Role of the histidine triad-like motif in nucleotide hydrolysis by the rotavirus RNA-packaging protein NSP2.

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Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, NIAID, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Octamers formed by the nonstructural protein NSP2 of rotavirus are proposed to function as molecular motors in the packaging of the segmented double-stranded RNA genome. The octamers have RNA binding, helix unwinding, and Mg(2+)-dependent NTPase activities and play a crucial role in assembly of viral replication factories (viroplasms). Comparison of x-ray structures has revealed significant structural homology between NSP2 and the histidine triad (HIT) family of nucleotidyl hydrolases, which in turn has suggested the location of the active site for NTP hydrolysis in NSP2. Consistent with the structural predictions, we show here using site-specific mutagenesis and ATP docking simulations that the active site for NTP hydrolysis is localized to residues within a 25-A-deep cleft between the C- and N-terminal domains of the NSP2 monomer. Although lacking the precise signature HIT motif (HØHØHØØ where Ø is a hydrophobic residue), our analyses demonstrate that histidines (His(221) and His(225)) represent critical residues of the active site. Similar to events occurring during nucleotide hydrolysis by HIT proteins, NTP hydrolysis by NSP2 was found to produce a short lived phosphorylated intermediate. Evaluation of the biological importance of the NTPase activity of NSP2 by transient expression in mammalian cells showed that such activity has no impact on the ability of NSP2 to induce the hyperphosphorylation of NSP5 or to interact with NSP5 to form viroplasm-like structures. Hence the NTPase activity of NSP2 probably has a role subsequent to the formation of viroplasms, consistent with its suspected involvement in RNA packaging and/or replication.

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