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Nucleocapsid structure and function.

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Architecture et Fonction des Macromolécules Biologiques, UMR 6098 CNRS et Universités Aix-Marseille I et II, 163 avenue de Luminy, Case 932, 13288 Marseille Cedex 09, France.


Measles virus belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family within the Mononegavirales order. Its nonsegmented, single-stranded, negative-sense RNA genome is encapsidated by the nucleoprotein (N) to form a helical nucleocapsid. This ribonucleoproteic complex is the substrate for both transcription and replication. The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase binds to the nucleocapsid template via its co-factor, the phosphoprotein (P). This chapter describes the main structural information available on the nucleoprotein, showing that it consists of a structured core (N(CORE)) and an intrinsically disordered C-terminal domain (N(TAIL)). We propose a model where the dynamic breaking and reforming of the interaction between N(TAIL) and P would allow the polymerase complex (L-P) to cartwheel on the nucleocapsid template. We also propose a model where the flexibility of the disordered N and P domains allows the formation of a tripartite complex (No-P-L) during replication, followed by the delivery of N monomers to the newly synthesized genomic RNA chain. Finally, the functional implications of structural disorder are also discussed in light of the ability of disordered regions to establish interactions with multiple partners, thus leading to multiple biological effects.

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