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Hydrophobic and Charged Residues in the C-Terminal Arm of Hepatitis C Virus RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase Regulate Initiation and Elongation.

Cherry, Amy and Dennis, C.A. and Baron, A. and Eisele, L.E. and Thommes, P.A. and Jaeger, J. (2015) Hydrophobic and Charged Residues in the C-Terminal Arm of Hepatitis C Virus RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase Regulate Initiation and Elongation. Journal of Virology, 89 (4). pp. 2052-2063. ISSN Print: 0022-538X Online: 1098-5514

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Abstract

The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is essential for viral genome replication. Crystal structures of the HCV RdRp reveal two C-terminal features, a β-loop and a C-terminal arm, suitably located for involvement in positioning components of the initiation complex. Here we show that these two elements intimately regulate template and nucleotide binding, initiation, and elongation. We constructed a series of β-loop and C-terminal arm mutants, which were used for in vitro analysis of RdRp de novo initiation and primer extension activities. All mutants showed a substantial decrease in initiation activities but a marked increase in primer extension activities, indicating an ability to form more stable elongation complexes with long primer-template RNAs. Structural studies of the mutants indicated that these enzyme properties might be attributed to an increased flexibility in the C-terminal features resulting in a more open polymerase cleft, which likely favors the elongation process but hampers the initiation steps. A UTP cocrystal structure of one mutant shows, in contrast to the wild-type protein, several alternate conformations of the substrate, confirming that even subtle changes in the C-terminal arm result in a more loosely organized active site and flexible binding modes of the nucleotide. We used a subgenomic replicon system to assess the effects of the same mutations on viral replication in cells. Even the subtlest mutations either severely impaired or completely abolished the ability of the replicon to replicate, further supporting the concept that the correct positioning of both the β-loop and C-terminal arm plays an essential role during initiation and in HCV replication in general. IMPORTANCE: HCV RNA polymerase is a key target for the development of directly acting agents to cure HCV infections, which necessitates a thorough understanding of the functional roles of the various structural features of the RdRp. Here we show that even highly conservative changes, e.g., Tyr→Phe or Asp→Glu, in these seemingly peripheral structural features have profound effects on the initiation and elongation properties of the HCV polymerase.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: hepatitus C virus, HCV polymerase, HCV infections, RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, RdRp
Subjects: Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR355 Virology
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Science and the Environment
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Amy Cherry
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2015 09:26
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2015 09:26
URI: https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/id/eprint/3581

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