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EMBO J. 1990 Aug;9(8):2631-8.

Cleavage-site preferences of Sindbis virus polyproteins containing the non-structural proteinase. Evidence for temporal regulation of polyprotein processing in vivo.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125.


The non-structural proteins of Sindbis virus, nsP1, 2, 3 and 4, are produced upon cleavage of polyproteins P123 and P1234 by a proteinase residing in nsP2. We used cell free translation of SP6 transcripts to study the proteolytic activity of nsP2 and of nsP2-containing polyproteins. To generate polyprotein enzymes, a set of plasmids was made in which cleavage sites were eliminated and new initiation and termination codons introduced by in vitro mutagenesis. As a substrate, we used a polyprotein in which the nsP2 proteinase had been inactivated by a single amino acid substitution. All nsP2-containing polyproteins cleaved the nsP1/2 site in trans. However, proteinases containing nsP1 were unable to cleave the nsP2/3 site. Furthermore, only proteinases containing nsP3 could cleave the nsP3/4 site. These differences in cleavage site specificity result in a temporal regulation of processing in vivo. At 1.7 h post infection P123 and nsP4 accumulated and only small amounts of P34 were found. However, at 4 h post infection P123 was processed rapidly and P34 was produced rather than nsP4. Since nsP4 is thought to be the viral RNA polymerase, the temporal regulation of the nsP4/P34 ratio may be responsible for the temporal regulation of RNA synthesis.

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