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Identification and Characterization of a Regulatory Domain on the Carboxyl Terminus of the Measles Virus Nucleocapsid Protein




The paramyxovirus template for transcription and genome replication consists of the RNA genome encapsidated by the nucleocapsid protein (N protein). The activity of the complex, consisting of viral polymerase plus template, can be measured with minireplicons in which the genomic coding sequence is replaced by chloramphenical acetyltransferase (CAT) antisense RNA. Using this approach, we showed that the C-terminal 24 amino acids of the measles virus N protein are dispensable for transcription and replication, based upon the truncation of N proteins used to support minireplicon reporter gene expression. Truncation at the C-terminal or penultimate amino acid 524 resulted in no change in CAT expression, whereas larger truncations spanning residues 523 to 502 were accompanied by an approximately twofold increase in basal activity. Reporter gene expression was enhanced by supplementation with the major inducible 70-kDa heat shock protein (Hsp72) for minireplicons with the N protein or the N protein truncated at position 525 or 524 but not in systems with a truncation at position 523 or 522. Naturally occurring sequence variants of the N protein with variations at positions 522 and 523 were also shown to lack Hsp72 responsiveness independent of changes in basal activity. Since these residues lie within a linear sequence predicting a direct Hsp72 interaction, N protein-Hsp72 binding reactions were analyzed by using surface plasmon resonance technology. Truncation of the C-terminal portion of the N protein by protease digestion resulted in a reduced binding affinity between Hsp72 and the N protein. Furthermore, with synthetic peptides, we established a correlation between the functional responsiveness and the binding affinity for Hsp72 of C-terminal N protein sequences. Collectively, these results show that the C-terminal 24 amino acids of the N protein represent a regulatory domain containing a functional motif that mediates a direct interaction with Hsp72.

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Journal of Virology

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