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Virology. 1997 Mar 17;229(2):322-35.

A highly conserved region of the Sendai virus nucleocapsid protein contributes to the NP-NP binding domain.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville 32610, USA.


The nucleocapsid protein (NP) of Sendai virus is an essential component of both the nucleocapsid template and the NP-NP and NP0-P protein complexes required for viral RNA replication. When expressed alone in mammalian cells NP self-assembles into nucleocapsid-like particles which appear to contain cellular RNA. To identify putative NP-NP binding domains, fusions between the monomeric maltose-binding protein (MBP) and portions of NP were constructed. The fusion proteins which contain the central conserved region (CCR) (amino acids 258-357, MBP-NP1) and the N-terminal 255 amino acids (MBP-NP2) of NP both oligomerized, suggesting that these regions contain sequences important for NP-NP self-assembly. In addition, the MBP-NP1 fusion protein can function as an inhibitor of viral RNA replication. Complementary studies involving site-directed mutagenesis of the full-length NP protein have identified specific residues in the CCR which are essential for viral RNA replication in vitro. Two such replication-negative mutants, F324V and F324I, were defective in self-assembly, suggesting that the Phe residue at amino acid 324 is essential for the NP-NP interaction. A third mutant, NP260-1 (Y260D), self-assembled to form aberrant oligomers which exhibit an unusual helical structure and appear to lack any associated RNA. The mutants NP299-5 (L299I and I300V) and NP313-2 (I313F), in contrast, appear to form all the required protein complexes, but were inactive in viral RNA replication, suggesting that interactions specifically with Sendai RNA were disrupted. These data have thus identified specific residues in the CCR of the native NP protein which appear to be important for NP-NP or NP-RNA interactions and for genome replication.

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