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A major determinant for membrane protein interaction localizes to the carboxy-terminal domain of the mouse coronavirus nucleocapsid protein

A major determinant for membrane protein interaction localizes to the carboxy-terminal domain of the mouse coronavirus nucleocapsid protein

Journal of Virology 79(21): 13285-13297

The two major constituents of coronavirus virions are the membrane (M) and nucleocapsid (N) proteins. The M protein is anchored in the viral envelope by three transmembrane segments flanked by a short amino-terminal ectodomain and a large carboxy-terminal endodomain. The M endodomain interacts with the viral nucleocapsid, which consists of the positive-strand RNA genome helically encapsidated by N protein monomers. In previous work with the coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus (MHV), a highly defective M protein mutant, M Delta 2, was constructed. This mutant contained a 2-amino-acid carboxy-terminal truncation of the M protein. Analysis of second-site revertants of M Delta 2 revealed mutations in the carboxy-terminal region of the N protein that compensated for the defect in the M protein. To seek further genetic evidence corroborating this interaction, we generated a comprehensive set of clustered charged-to-alanine mutants in the carboxy-terminal domain 3 of N protein. One of these mutants, CCA4, had a highly defective phenotype similar to that of M Delta 2. Transfer of the CCA4 mutation into a partially diploid MHV genome showed that CCA4 was a loss-of-function mutation rather than a dominant-negative mutation. Analysis of multiple second-site revertants of CCA4 revealed mutations in both the M protein and the N protein that could compensate for the original lesion in N. These data more precisely define the region of the N protein that interacts with the M protein. Further, we found that fusion of domain 3 of the N protein to the carboxy terminus of a heterologous protein caused it to be incorporated into MHV virions.

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Accession: 011688317

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PMID: 16227251

DOI: 10.1128/jvi.79.21.13285-13297.2005

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