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RNA. 2012 Apr;18(4):771-82. doi: 10.1261/rna.031260.111. Epub 2012 Feb 22.

RNA binding is more critical to the suppression of silencing function of Cucumber mosaic virus 2b protein than nuclear localization.

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  • 1Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, CIB, CSIC, Madrid 28040, Spain.


Previously, we found that silencing suppression by the 2b protein and six mutants correlated both with their ability to bind to double-stranded (ds) small RNAs (sRNAs) in vitro and with their nuclear/nucleolar localization. To further discern the contribution to suppression activity of sRNA binding and of nuclear localization, we have characterized the kinetics of in vitro binding to a ds sRNA, a single-stranded (ss) sRNA, and a micro RNA (miRNA) of the native 2b protein and eight mutant variants. We have also added a nuclear export signal (NES) to the 2b protein and assessed how it affected subcellular distribution and suppressor activity. We found that in solution native protein bound ds siRNA, miRNA, and ss sRNA with high affinity, at protein:RNA molar ratios ~2:1. Of the four mutants that retained suppressor activity, three showed sRNA binding profiles similar to those of the native protein, whereas the remaining one bound ss sRNA at a 2:1 molar ratio, but both ds sRNAs with 1.5-2 times slightly lower affinity. Three of the four mutants lacking suppressor activity failed to bind to any sRNA, whereas the remaining one bound them at far higher ratios. NES-tagged 2b protein became cytoplasmic, but suppression activity in patch assays remained unaffected. These results support binding to sRNAs at molar ratios at or near 2:1 as critical to the suppressor activity of the 2b protein. They also show that cytoplasmically localized 2b protein retained suppressor activity, and that a sustained nuclear localization was not required for this function.

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