The conserved structural motif D is an important determinant of the speed and fidelity of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRps). Structural and computational studies have suggested that conformational changes in the motif-D loop that help to reposition the catalytic lysine represent critical steps in nucleotide selection and incorporation. Conformations of the motif-D loop in the poliovirus RdRp are likely controlled in part by noncovalent interactions involving the motif-D residue Glu364. This residue swivels between making interactions with Lys228 and Asn370 to stabilize the open and closed loop conformations, respectively. We show here that we can rationally control the motif-D loop conformation by breaking these interactions. The K228A variant favors a more active closed conformation, leading to increased nucleotide incorporation rates and decreased nucleotide selectivity, and the N370A variant favors a less active open conformation, leading to decreased nucleotide incorporation rates and increased nucleotide selectivity. Similar competing interactions likely control nucleotide incorporation rates and fidelity in other viral RdRps. Rational engineering of these interactions may be important in the generation of live, attenuated vaccine strains, considering the established relationships between RdRp function and viral pathogenesis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes