Picornavirus genome replication: Assembly and organization of the VPg uridylylation ribonucleoprotein (initiation) complex

Harsh B. Pathak, Jamie J. Arnold, Phillip N. Wiegand, Michele R.S. Hargittai, Craig E. Cameron

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54 Scopus citations


All picornaviruses have a protein, VPg, covalently linked to the 5′-ends of their genomes. Uridylylated VPg (VPg-pUpU) is thought to serve as the protein primer for RNA synthesis. VPg-pUpU can be produced in vitro by the viral polymerase, 3Dpol, in a reaction in which a single adenylate residue of a stem-loop structure, termed oriI, templates processive incorporation of UMP into VPg by using a "slide-back" mechanism. This reaction is greatly stimulated by viral precursor protein 3CD or its processed derivative, 3C; both contain RNA-binding and protease activities. We show that the 3C domain encodes specificity for oriI, and the 3D domain enhances the overall affinity for oriI. Thus, 3C(D) stimulation exhibits an RNA length dependence. By using a minimal system to evaluate the mechanism of VPg uridylylation, we show that the active complex contains polymerase, oriI, and 3C(D) at stoichiometry of 1:1:2. Dimerization of 3C(D) is supported by physical and structural data. Polymerase recruitment to and retention in this complex require a protein-protein interaction between the polymerase and 3C(D). Physical and functional data for this interaction are provided for three picornaviruses. VPg association with this complex is weak, suggesting that formation of a complex containing all necessary components of the reaction is rate-limiting for the reaction. We suggest that assembly of this complex in vivo would be facilitated by use of precursor proteins instead of processed proteins. These data provide a glimpse into the organization of the ribonucleoprotein complex that catalyzes this key step in picornavirus genome replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16202-16213
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number22
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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