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J Mol Biol. 2009 Aug 14;391(2):314-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2009.05.065. Epub 2009 May 27.

RNA binding by the brome mosaic virus capsid protein and the regulation of viral RNA accumulation.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Viral capsid proteins (CPs) can regulate gene expression and encapsulate viral RNAs. Low-level expression of the brome mosaic virus (BMV) CP was found to stimulate viral RNA accumulation, while higher levels inhibited translation and BMV RNA replication. Regulation of translation acts through an RNA element named the B box, which is also critical for the replicase assembly. The BMV CP has also been shown to preferentially bind to an RNA element named SLC that contains the core promoter for genomic minus-strand RNA synthesis. To further elucidate CP interaction with RNA, we used a reversible cross-linking-peptide fingerprinting assay to identify peptides in the capsid that contact the SLC, the B-box RNA, and the encapsidated RNA. Transient expression of three mutations made in residues within or close by the cross-linked peptides partially released the normal inhibition of viral RNA accumulation in agroinfiltrated Nicotiana benthamiana. Interestingly, two of the mutants, R142A and D148A, were found to retain the ability to down-regulate reporter RNA translation. These two mutants formed viral particles in inoculated leaves, but only R142A was able to move systemically in the inoculated plant. The R142A CP was found to have higher affinities for SLC and the B box compared with those of wild-type CP and to alter contacts to the RNA in the virion. These results better define how the BMV CP can interact with RNA and regulate different viral processes.

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