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J Virol. 2013 Jun;87(11):6296-305. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00061-13. Epub 2013 Mar 27.

Structure-function analysis of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus RNA cap guanine-N7-methyltransferase.

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State Key Laboratory of Virology, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan, People's Republic of China.


Coronaviruses possess a cap structure at the 5' ends of viral genomic RNA and subgenomic RNAs, which is generated through consecutive methylations by virally encoded guanine-N7-methyltransferase (N7-MTase) and 2'-O-methyltransferase (2'-O-MTase). The coronaviral N7-MTase is unique for its physical linkage with an exoribonuclease (ExoN) harbored in nonstructural protein 14 (nsp14) of coronaviruses. In this study, the structure-function relationships of the N7-MTase were analyzed by deletion and site-directed mutagenesis of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) nsp14. The results showed that the ExoN domain is closely involved in the activity of the N7-MTase, suggesting that coronavirus N7-MTase is different from all other viral N7-MTases, which are separable from other structural domains located in the same polypeptide. Two of the 12 critical residues identified to be essential for the N7-MTase were located at the N terminus of the core ExoN domain, reinforcing a role of the ExoN domain in the N7-MTase activity of nsp14. The other 10 critical residues were distributed throughout the N7-MTase domain but localized mainly in the S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM)-binding pocket and key structural elements of the MTase fold of nsp14. The sequence motif DxGxPxA (amino acids [aa] 331 to 338) was identified as the key part of the SAM-binding site. These results provide insights into the structure and functional mechanisms of coronaviral nsp14 N7-MTase.

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