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Mutagenesis of the NS3 protease of dengue virus type 2

Mutagenesis of the NS3 protease of dengue virus type 2

Journal of Virology 72(1): 624-632

ISSN/ISBN: 0022-538X

PMID: 9420267

The flavivirus protease is composed of two viral proteins, NS2B and NS3. The amino-terminal portion of NS3 contains sequence and structural motifs characteristic of bacterial and cellular trypsin-like proteases. We have undertaken a mutational analysis of the region of NS3 which contains the catalytic serine, five putative substrate binding residues, and several residues that are highly conserved among flavivirus proteases and among all serine proteases. In all, 46 single-amino-acid substitutions were created in a cloned NS2B-NS3 cDNA fragment of dengue virus type 2, and the effect of each mutation on the extent of self-cleavage of the NS2B-NS3 precursor at the NS2B-NS3 junction was assayed in vivo. Twelve mutations almost completely or completely inhibited protease activity, 9 significantly reduced it, 14 decreased cleavage, and 11 yielded wild-type levels of activity. Substitution of alanine at ultraconserved residues abolished NS3 protease activity. Cleavage was also inhibited by substituting some residues that are conserved among flavivirus NS3 proteins. Two (Y150 and G153) of the five putative substrate binding residues could not be replaced by alanine, and only Y150 and N152 could be replaced by a conservative change. The two other putative substrate binding residues, D129 and F130, were more freely substitutable. By analogy with the trypsin model, it was proposed that D129 is located at the bottom of the substrate binding pocket so as to directly interact with the basic amino acid at the substrate cleavage site. Interestingly, we found that significant cleavage activity was displayed by mutants in which D129 was replaced by E, S, or A and that low but detectable protease activity was exhibited by mutants in which D129 was replaced by K, R, or L. Contrary to the proposed model, these results indicate that D129 is not a major determinant of substrate binding and that its interaction with the substrate, if it occurs at all, is not essential. This mutagenesis study provided us with an array of mutations that alter the cleavage efficiency of the dengue virus protease. Mutations that decrease protease activity without abolishing it are candidates for introduction into the dengue virus infectious full-length cDNA clone with the aim of creating potentially attenuated virus stocks.

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Accession: 003208597

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