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Keywords:

  • classical swine fever virus;
  • RNA-dependent RNA polymerase;
  • nonstructural protein 5B;
  • de novo RNA synthesis;
  • RNA-binding activity

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

Classical swine fever virus nonstructural protein 5B (NS5B) encodes an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, a key enzyme of the viral replication complex. To better understand the initiation of viral RNA synthesis and to establish an in vitro replication system, a recombinant NS5B protein, lacking the C-terminal 24-amino acid hydrophobic domain, was expressed in Escherichia coli. The truncated fusion protein (NS5BΔ24) was purified on a Ni-chelating HisTrap affinity column and demonstrated to initiate either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA synthesis de novo in a primer-independent manner but not by terminal nucleotidyle transferase activity. De novo RNA synthesis represented the preferred mechanism for initiation of classical swine fever virus RNA synthesis by RNA-dependent RNA polymerase in vitro. Both Mg2+ and Mn2+ supported de novo initiation, however, RNA synthesis was more efficient in the presence of Mn2+ than in the presence of Mg2+. De novo initiation of RNA synthesis was stimulated by preincubation with 0.5 mm GTP, and a 3′-terminal cytidylate on the viral RNA template was preferred for de novo initiation. Furthermore, the purified protein was also shown, by North-Western blot analysis, to specifically interact with the 3′-end of both plus- and minus-strand viral RNA templates.

Abbreviations
ALP

alkaline phosphatase

BVDV

bovine viral diarrhea virus

CSFV

classical swine fever virus

DIG

digoxin

RdRp

RNA-dependent RNA polymerase

IRES

internal ribosomal entry site

NS5B

nonstructural protein 5B

TNTase

terminal nucleotidyle transferase

Classical swine fever virus (CSFV) is a small enveloped positive-strand RNA virus classified in the genus of Pestivirus, which also comprises bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) and border disease virus (BDV). Together with the genera Flavivirus and Hepacivirus, they form the family Flaviviridae[1,2]. The genomic RNA, ≈ 12.3 kb in length, contains a single long ORF encoding a polyprotein of ≈ 3898 amino acids which is flanked by 5′- and 3′-UTRs [3]. The 5′-UTR contains an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) for cap-independent translation of the viral polyprotein [4,5], whereas the 3′-UTR may contain replication signals involved in minus-strand RNA synthesis, as in BVDV [6]. The polyprotein is processed, co- and post-translationally, into 12 polypeptides by viral and cellular proteases. The order of polypeptides is NH2-Npro-C-Erns-E1-E2-p7-NS2-NS3-NS4A-NS4B-NSA-NS5B-COOH [7]. Npro, a nonstructural autoprotease, can release itself from its precursor, but is not necessary for viral replication in cell culture [8]. Nuclecapsid protein C, and glycoproteins Erns, E1 and E2, represent four structural proteins, and form the capsid and envelope of the virion, respectively. The others are nonstructural proteins (NS) [3]. Most of the NS are speculated to be components in the viral replication cycle. Among them, NS3 is a multifunctional enzyme and responsible for functions associated with the replication and biotype of cytopathogenicity in cell culture [9]. The last viral protein (NS5B), at the C terminus of the polyprotein, is a key component responsible for the replication of viral RNA genome. It also contains motifs shared by RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRps), such as the Gly–Asp–Asp (GDD) motif, which is highly conserved among RdRps [10] and has been demonstrated to possess RdRp activity in insect cells [11,12] and porcine kidney cells (PK-15) [13]. It is believed that certain enzymatic functions of NS3 and NS5B may play an important role during the replication of viral RNA.

The replication of the CSFV genome is generally thought to be similar to other positive-strand RNA viruses: synthesis of complementary minus-strand RNA with the plus-strand genomic RNA as template, and subsequent synthesis of the progeny RNA with the minus-strand RNA as template. Thus, the 3′-end of both plus- and minus-strand RNAs may contain the cis-acting elements, such as promoter or enhancer, involved in the initiation of viral RNA synthesis by RdRp. Although several infectious cDNA clones of CSFV have been developed [14–18], facilitating the research of cytopathogenicity, replication and function of viral proteins by reverse genetic approach in the cell culture system [8,9,19], another method to study CSFV replication would be to work towards identification of the cis-acting elements at the 3′-end of both plus- and minus-strand RNAs and possibly the viral or cellular proteins that interact with it to form a replication complex for initiating viral RNA synthesis in vitro. At present, the molecular mechanism of initiating CSFV RNA synthesis is not well understood. Previous reports have shown that the recombinant CSFV NS5B (expressed in insect cells) catalyzed RNA synthesis was strictly primer-dependent and that intramolecular priming copy-back synthesis represented the preferred mechanism for initiation of RNA synthesis [11]. However, the activity of the cellular terminal nucleotidyle transferase (TNTase) was also demonstrated to be present in the cytoplasmic extracts of insect cells [20,21]. The cellular TNTase could add extra nucleotides to the 3′-terminus of the RNA template and might serve as primer for template-primed copy-back synthesis. Moreover, evidence was obtained that the TNTase activity associated with the hepatitis C virus NS5B might be the result of a contaminating cellular protein present in minute amounts in the enzyme preparation [21].

To better understand the initiation of CSFV RNA replication, we expressed and purified a recombinant NS5BΔ24 fusion protein from Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3). The fusion protein was demonstrated to have the ability to initiate de novo either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA synthesis in a primer-independent manner and to specifically interact with viral RNA templates. This in vitro RdRp assay will be useful for using to study the sequences and proteins required for the initiation of CSFV RNA synthesis.

Plasmid constructs

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

The plasmid pGEM5b, containing full-length CSFV (Shimen strain) NS5B, was constructed as described previously [13]. The NS5B fragment lacking the C terminal 24 amino acids (NS5BΔ24) was PCR amplified with the following primer pair – NS5BFor and NS5BRev – from pGEM5b (Table 1). A polyhistidine tag (GSHHHHHH) was introduced at the C terminus to facilitate purification of the NS5BΔ24 protein. After purification, the PCR products were digested with NcoI and BglII and then inserted into the NcoI/BamHI sites of vector pET-28a (Novagen). The resulting expression vector, pET-NS5BΔ24, which was driven by the T7 RNA polymerase promoter, was transformed into E. coli DH5α. Site-directed mutagenesis of GDD to GAA, containing the double substitution of both Asp448 and Asp449 to alanine, was carried out by overlapping PCR. The N terminal 1370 bp fragment was amplified by NS5BFor and NS5Bm2, and the C terminal 780 bp fragment was amplified by NS5Bm1 and NS5BRev. Then, the two fragments were purified and combined to generate the mutant NS5BΔ24GAA using the outer primers NS5BFor and NS5BRev. After modification with NcoI and BglII, the mutant fragment was subcloned into vector pET-28a. Transformants were analyzed by restriction enzyme mapping and confirmed by the dideoxy sequencing method.

Table 1. Sequence of the primers used in this study. The T7 polymerase promoter sequence is shown in italics. The mutated nucleotides are shown in bold and the additional polyhistidine amino acid sequences are underlined.
PrimersSequence (5′−3′)
NS5BForCATGCCATGGGCAGTAATTGGGTGATGCA
NS5BRevGAAGATCTTAATGATGATGATGATGATG GCTGCCATTGTACCTGTCTGCCCCTT
NS5Bm1ATCAGGAGACCAGCAGCCCCGCACACAT
NS5Bm2ATGTGTGCGGGGCTGCTGGTCTCCTGAT
5′-UTRforGTATACGAGGTTAGTTCATTC
5′-UTRfor1CTATACGAGGTTAGTTCATTC
5′-UTRfor2TTATACGAGGTTAGTTCATTC
5′-UTRfor3ATATACGAGGTTAGTTCATTC
5′-UTRrevTAATACGACTCACTATAGGGTGCCATGAA CAG
5′-UTRrev2GTGCCATGAACAGCAGAGATTTTTATAC
P1TAGCCATGCCCATAGTAGG
P2ATCAGGTCGTACTCCCATCAC
3′-UTRforTAATACGACTCACTATAGCGCGGGTAAC
3′-UTRfor2GCGCGGGTAACCCGGGATCTGAA
3′-UTRrevGGGCCGTTAGGAAATTACCTTAGTC
3′-UTRrev1CGGCCGTTAGGAAATTACCTTAGTC
3′-UTRrev2TGGCCGTTAGGAAATTACCTTAGTC
3′-UTRrev3AGGCCGTTAGGAAATTACCTTAGTC

Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

E. coli BL21 (DE3), transformed with either pET-NS5BΔ24 or pET-NS5BΔ24GAA, was grown in Luria–Bertani (LB) medium, at 37 °C, to an attenuance (D) at 600 nm of ≈ 0.6–0.8. Then, the temperature was lowed to 18 °C, and protein expression was induced for 20 h by the addition of 0.4 mm isopropyl thio-β-d-galactoside (IPTG). The cell pellet obtained from 500 mL of culture was resuspended in 30 mL of binding buffer containing 20 mm sodium phosphate, pH 8.0, 500 mm NaCl, 20 mm imidazole, 10 mmβ-mercaptoethanol, 20% glycerol, 1% Triton-X-100, 1 mm phenylmethanesulfonyl fluoride, and 10 µg·mL−1 lysozyme. Then 20 µL of DNase I (Takara) was added to the suspension for 30 min at room temperature. The lysates were sonicated on ice to reduce viscosity, and any insoluble materials were removed by centrifugation at 13 000 g for 15 min. The clear supernatant was applied to a 1-mL Ni-chelating HisTrap affinity column (Amersham) pre-equilibrated with the binding buffer containing 50 mm imidazole. The bound protein was then eluted stepwise with elution buffer (20 mm sodium phosphate, pH 8.0, 500 mm NaCl, 5 mmβ-mercaptoethanol, 20% glycerol, 0.2% Triton-X-100) containing a gradient imidazole concentration from 150 to 450 mm. The fractions were monitored by SDS/PAGE and staining with Coomassie Brilliant Blue R250. Then, the His-tagged protein peaks were collected and dialyzed against buffer (20 mm Tris/HCl pH 8.0, 500 mm NaCl and 20% glycerol), followed by storage at −40 °C in small aliquots. The concentration of purified protein was determined by the Bradford method using BSA as a standard.

SDS/PAGE and Western blot

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

Protein fractions from the HisTrap affinity column were separated by 12% SDS/PAGE and electrotransferred to a nitrocellulose membrane. The membrane was blocked with 3% BSA in NaCl/Pi and treated with rabbit anti-swine serum infected with CSFV. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)-conjugated goat anti-(rabbit IgG) was used as the secondary antibody. After washing three times with NaCl/Pi containing 0.1% Tween-20, membrane-bound antibodies were detected with Nitro Blue tetrazolium/5-bromo-4-chloroindol-2-yl phosphate.

Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

RNA templates were prepared by in vitro transcription. The plasmid T6-1, containing the full-length CSFV 3′-UTR, and the plasmid pGEM61s-2, containing the full-length 5′-UTR, were constructed as previously reported [18]. The DNA fragment of the 3′-end of the plus-strand RNA (+)3′-UTR was amplified using primers 3′-UTRfor and 3′-UTRrev from T6-1; and the 3′-end of the minus-strand RNA (–)IRES, which is complementary to the CSFV 5′-UTR, was amplified from pGEM61s-2 using the primers 5′-UTRfor and 5-′UTRrev. To generate (+)3′-UTR mutants with substitution of the 3′ terminus cytidylate with G, A and T, PCR was performed with sense primer 3′-UTRfor and antisense primers 3′-UTRrev1, 3′-UTRrev2 or 3′-UTRrev3, respectively, using T6-1 as template. For (–)IRES mutants, PCR was perfomed using the sense primers 5′-UTRfor1, 5′-UTRfor2 or 5′-UTRfor3 and antisense primer 5′-UTRrev from pGEM61s-2. All the PCR amplifications were performed using pfu DNA polymerase (MBI), and the DNA fragments were recovered using a DNA purification kit. The T7 RNA polymerase promoter sequence was introduced into the primers 3′-UTRfor and 5′-UTRrev to initiate RNA synthesis. In vitro transcription was carried out with T7 RNA polymerase, according to the manufacturer's instructions (Promega). After a 2 h incubation at 37 °C, the DNA templates were digested twice with RNase-free DNase I. The RNA transcripts were extracted with acid phenol/chloroform (1 : 1, v/v), followed by precipitation with two volumes of ethanol and 0.4 m sodium acetate. The precipitated RNA was dissolved in diethyl pyrocarbonate-treated water and the RNA concentration determined by measuring the absorbance (A) at 260 nm. Occasionally, RNA transcripts were further purified by 6% PAGE containing 7 m urea. The gel fragment containing the RNA was excised and incubated overnight in 10 mm Tris/HCl, pH 7.5, 25 mm NaCl, 1 mm EDTA. After elimination of polyacrylamide, the RNA was precipitated by ethanol. The 3′-hydroxyl group of RNA transcripts was blocked by sodium periodate, as described previously [22]. Ten micrograms of RNA transcript was dissolved in 100 µL of 50 mm sodium acetate. After the addition of 25 µL sodium periodate (100 mm), the mixture was incubated for 1 h at room temperature, then phenol/chloroform extracted and ethanol precipitated. Residual sodium periodate was removed by several washes using 70% ethanol.

For preparation of digoxin (DIG)-labeled RNA probes or templates, the DNA fragments of (+)3′-UTR and (–)IRES were used as templates for in vitro transcription. RNA labeling was performed according to the instruction manual supplied with the DIG RNA labeling kit of Roche Molecule Biochemicals. The mixtures were incubated for 2 h at 37 °C, and DNA templates were removed by digestion with RNase-free DNase I.

In vitro RdRp

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

The in vitro RdRp standard assay was performed in a total volume of 50 µL containing 20 mm Tris/HCl, pH 8.0, 5 mm MgCl2, 5 mm MnCl2, 2 mm dithiothreitol, 50 mm NaCl, 0.25 mm of each NTP, 0.3 µg of RNA template and ≈ 0.1 µg of purified protein. The reaction mixtures were incubated at 25 °C for 2 h and stopped by the addition of 20 mm EDTA. The RNA products were extracted with acid phenol/chloroform (1 : 1, v/v) followed by ethanol precipitation. Then, the precipitates were dissolved with either 20 µL of diethyl pyrocarbonate-treated water or denaturing buffer (see below).

Northern blot analysis

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

The precipitated RdRp products were dissolved in a denaturing buffer containing 95% formamide, 10 mm EDTA, 20 mm Tris/HCl, pH 8.0, at 100 °C for 5 min, and then separated by PAGE (8% gel containing 7 m urea) in 1× Tris/borate/EDTA (TBE) buffer. After electrophoresis, the gels were transferred to a positively charged nylon membrane (Hybond) and electroblotted for 4 h at 4 °C. The membrane was dried for 2 h at 80 °C and exposed to ultraviolet irradiation (254 nm) for 2 min at 0.12 J·sq cm−1. Hybridization was performed overnight, at 68 °C, in 10 mL of a solution containing 50% formamide, 2% blocking reagent (Roche), 5 × NaCl/Cit and 20 µg·mL−1 yeast tRNA, together with the appropriate DIG-labeled RNA transcripts. The excess probes were eliminated gradually by washing the membrane from low stringency (2× NaCl/Cit, 0.2% SDS) to high stringency (0.1× NaCl/Cit, 0.1% SDS) at 68 °C. Then, the bound RNA was treated with ALP-conjugated anti-DIG Ig (1 : 5000) in dilution buffer (1× blocking reagent in 0.1 m maleic acid buffer, pH 7.0) for 30 min. The reaction complexes were visualized using Nitro Blue tetrazolium/5-bromo-4-chloroindol-2-yl phosphate, according to the manufacturers of the DIG RNA detection kit (Roche).

RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

The strand-specific oligodeoxynucleotide primers, 5′-UTRrev2 and 3′-UTRfor2, complementary to the synthesized plus- and minus-strand RNAs, were used for RT-catalyzed cDNA synthesis, followed by PCR amplification of cDNAs. Six microlitres of dissolved RNA was subjected to RT with M-MLV according to the manufacturer's instructions (Promega). PCR was performed with 5′-UTRfor and 5′-UTRrev2 primers for detection of synthesized plus-strand RNA. For detection of synthesized minus-strand RNA, 3′-UTRfor2 and 3′-UTRrev primers were used.

The synthesized RNA was real-time quantified using the TaqMan assay, according to McGoldrick et al. [23] and Cheng et al. [24], with some modifications. A set of 5′-UTR-specific primers, P1 (forward) and P2 (reverse), were used to amplify a 222-bp fragment of the 5′-UTR (nucleotides 95–316). The fluorogenic probe was designed with the following sequence: 5′-TACAGGACAGTCGTCAGTAGTTCGACGTGA-3′. RNA quantification was performed as follows: the precipitated RNA was reverse transcribed to cDNA using P2 as a primer, then 2 µL of cDNA was used as the template for amplification in a 20-µL volume containing 15 pmol of each primer, 4.5 mm MgCl2, 1 unit of Taq polymerase (MBI) and 3 pmol of TaqMan probe (Alpha). The PCR mixtures were placed in a thermocycler (Corbett) and subjected to 45 cycles of the following reaction parameters: denaturation at 95 °C for 30 s, annealing at 60 °C for 30 s and extension at 72 °C for 45 s.

RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

The protein samples were resolved by SDS/PAGE (10% gel) and transferred to nitrocellulose membrane. Membrane-bound proteins were renatured in buffer A (10 mm Tris/HCL, 50 mm NaCl, 5% glycerol, 5 mm MgCl2, 0.1% Triton-X-100, pH 7.8) containing 5 mg·mL−1 BSA and 1 mm dithiothreitol, at room temperature for 4 h. After washing with buffer A, membranes were transferred to RNA binding buffer (10 mm Tris/HCl, 100 mm NaCl, 5% glycerol, 5 mm MgCl2, 0.2 mm dithiothreitol, 0.1% Triton-X-100, 20 µg·mL−1 tRNA, 0.5 mg·mL−1 BSA, pH 7.8). One microlitre of DIG-labeled RNA was added and the membranes were incubated for 2 h with gentle shaking. Membranes were washed twice with RNA binding buffer, without dithiothreitol and tRNA, and then the bound RNA was treated with ALP-conjugated anti-DIG Ig (1 : 5000). RNA–protein complexes were visualized using Nitro Blue tetrazolium/5-bromo-4-chloroindol-2-yl phosphate.

Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

To isolate the function of CSFV NS5B from other viral and cellular proteins and to establish an in vitro replication system for studying the initiation of viral RNA replication, NS5B protein was expressed in an E. coli system. Earlier attempts to express and purify the full-length NS5B had been hampered as a result of the poor solubility. Sequence analysis and analysis of the hydropathy profile of CSFV NS5B revealed that there was a conserved hydrophobic domain at the C terminus of different CSFV strains (Fig. 1A). Prompted by reports that removal of the C terminal hydrophobic domain of the RdRps of hepatitis C virus [25–27], hepatitis G virus [28], and BVDV [29] could significantly improve the solubility of the protein expressed in E. coli, the C terminal 24 amino acids of NS5B were deleted and NS5BΔ24 was inserted into the pET-28a vector. To facilitate protein expression and purification, additional Met–Glu residues were introduced at the N terminus for initiating translation, and a polyhistidine epitope tag (GSHHHHHH) was introduced to the C terminal of NS5BΔ24 for affinity purification. The fusion protein, of ≈ 75 kDa, was obtained with an imidazole elution gradient of 150 to 250 mm (Fig. 1B). The protein was identified as the recombinant NS5B by Western blot analysis using CSFV-infected pig serum as primary antibody (Fig. 1C). To maximize the amount of soluble protein, expression was performed at a low temperature (18 °C) and the cell pellet was resuspended in a nonionic detergent (1% Triton-X-100) in combination with a high concentration of salt (500 mm) and glycerol (20%). We succeeded in recovering ≈ 2 mg of soluble protein from 1 L of E. coli culture. The other mutant protein, NS5BΔ24GAA, was expressed and purified in parallel to the NS5BΔ24 protein. The sufficient amounts of soluble protein thus obtained provided the basis for further studying the characterization of the enzyme and for the development of an in vitro replication system.

image

Figure 1. Expression and purification of classical swine fever virus (CSFV) NS5BΔ24 and NS5BΔ24GAA fusion proteins from Escherichia coli. (A) Hydropathy profile (Kyte and Doolittle) of CSFV NS5B. NS5B contains a highly hydrophobic region at the C terminus. (B) Proteins were expressed and purified as described in the Materials and methods. Fractions of sample eluted from the HisTrap affinity column by a concentration gradient of imidazole were separated by SDS/PAGE (12% gel) and stained with Coomassie Brilliant Blue. Lane M, molecular mass markers; lanes 1–4, eluted with 150 mm imidazole buffer; lanes 5–8, eluted with 250 mm imidazole buffer; lanes 9–11, eluted with 350 mm imidazole buffer. (C) Western blot analysis of the purified protein. Lane 1, NS5BΔ24 protein; lane 2, pET-28a vector as a negative control; lane 3, NS5BΔ24GAA protein.

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NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

To determine whether the truncated NS5B (NS5BΔ24) protein could direct a viral-specific sequence for initiation of RNA synthesis in vitro, the 3′-end of plus-strand (+)3′-UTR and minus-strand (–)IRES RNA transcripts were used as templates because they were believed to contain cis-acting promoters for initiating viral RNA synthesis. As T7 RNA polymerase was able to elongate self-complementary RNA templates by template-directed RNA synthesis during in vitro transcription [30], both (+)3′-UTR and (–)IRES RNA transcripts were purified before being used as templates. RNA templates were loaded onto the same gel as the marker and were visualized by silver staining. The RNA products synthesized by CSFV NS5BΔ24 were separated by denaturing PAGE (8% gel) and detected using a Northern blot assay. As shown in Fig. 2 (lane 3), the purified NS5BΔ24 was able to synthesize either the plus-strand or minus-strand RNA products from the respective templates. The predominant RNA products migrated similarly to the respective RNA templates (373 nucleotides for synthesized plus-strand RNA and 228 nucleotides for synthesized minus-strand RNA). When (–)IRES was used as a template, a very small amount of high molecular weight RNA products was also observed. However, no RNA products were obtained in the absence of purified protein or RNA templates, indicating that purified NS5BΔ24 was not contaminated with T7 RNA polymerase or RNA/DNA that could serve as a template. Furthermore, mutation of the conserved motif, GDD, to GAA almost abolished RNA synthesis (Fig. 2, lane 4), similar to the reports for hepatitis C virus RdRp [31,32]. These results showed that purified NS5BΔ24 fusion protein, lacking the C terminal 24 amino acids, possessed RdRp activity in vitro and that the C terminal hydrophobic domain was not necessary for RdRp activity.

image

Figure 2. RNA-dependent RNA polymerase(RdRp) activity of classical swine fever virus(CSFV) NS5BΔ24 protein. The RNA templates were purified before use. RNA products were separated by PAGE (8% gel containing 7 m urea) and detected by Northern blot. (A) The 228-nucleotide (+)3′-UTR RNA transcripts were used as template. (B) RdRp assay with 373-nucleotide (–)IRES RNA transcripts as template. Lane 1, absence of RNA template; lane 2, absence of NS5BΔ24; lane 3, presence of NS5BΔ24 and RNA template; lane 4, presence of NS5BΔ24GAA and RNA template. The position of the input RNA template is shown as ‘-’.

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Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

For the positive strand RNA viruses, the mechanisms of initiating viral RNA synthesis are rather different. Poliovirus has been shown to use a uridylylated protein as primer (protein-primed) to initiate RNA synthesis [33]. Phage Qβ initiated de novo RNA synthesis [34], whereas rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) initiated RNA synthesis by using a template-primed copy-back mechanism [35]. Besides copy-back synthesis, Dengue virus RdRp was also demonstrated to be capable of de novo initiation of RNA synthesis [36]. Previous work has shown that crude extracts of recombinant CSFV NS5B expressed in insect cells could produce two RNA products using D-RNA (an mRNA of the liver-specific transcription factor DCoH) as template. One product, which was identical in size to the input RNA template, might have resulted from a TNTase activity, while the other was determined to be a double-stranded hairpin dimer RNA synthesized by a copy-back mechanism[11]. However, our work found that the predominant RNA products were template-sized, and thus the question was whether the template-sized RNA products were generated through de novo RNA synthesis. As the template-sized RNA could be detected by complementary probes, and RNA polymerization required all four ribonucleotides as substrates (data not shown), it seemed that the template-sized RNA products probably represented RNA synthesized by a de novo initiation mechanism but should not result from a terminal transferase activity. If RNA products were synthesized by TNTase activity, it would have the same polarity as the input RNA template [37]. To provide further evidence of de novo RNA synthesis, the 3′-hydroxyl group of RNA templates were blocked by treatment with sodium periodate. The migration patterns of RNA products are shown in Fig. 3A, indicating that the template-sized RNA products were truly synthesized by de novo initiation, but not by the 3′-end elongation copy-back synthesis. It should be pointed out that a very small amount of high molecular weight RNA products were still observed with 3′-blocked (–)IRES as template, possibly because the polymerase used the nascent RNA as template for additional rounds of RNA synthesis. Furthermore, we performed RT using strand-specific oligodeoxynucleotides as a primer that could anneal only to the 3′-terminus of either synthesized plus- or minus-strand RNA products, followed by PCR amplification. The amplified fragments were analyzed by agarose gel electrophoresis and stained by ethidium bromide. As shown in Fig. 3B, the expected sizes of DNA fragments (373 nucleotides for new synthesized plus-strand and 228 nucleotides for the minus-strand) were observed, verifying that template-sized RNA products were initiated de novo from the 3′-terminus of the template but not by premature termination or internal initiation, as suggested in reports for tomato bushy stunt virus, cucumber necrosis virus [38] and hepatitis C virus [39]. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that the purified CSFV NS5BΔ24 could preferentially initiate either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA synthesis de novo in the absence of primers and viral or host factors. This result is contrary to the previous reports for CSFV RdRp [11], as well as BVDV RdRp [40], another member of the Pestivirus genus, in which the major RNA products catalyzed by RdRp were shown to be a covalently linked double-stranded molecule generated by a copy-back mechanism. At present it is unknown whether this discrepancy is caused by the various viral enzyme preparations or different templates used. In fact, reports have shown that the RdRp of BVDV could preferentially initiate RNA synthesis by a de novo initiation mechanism with chemically synthesized short RNA (21 nucleotides) as a template [41], although a primer extension RNA product was also observed [42]. Therefore, de novo initiation of RNA synthesis might represent the preferred mechanism used by Pestivirus RdRps in vitro.

image

Figure 3. De novo initiation of viral RNA synthesis by classical swine fever virus(CSFV) RNA-dependent RNA polymerase(RdRp). Both viral plus- and minus-strand RNA templates were treated with sodium periodate to block the 3′-OH group and then used as template for RdRp assay. (A) Northern blot assay with (+)3′-UTR and (–)IRES as templates. Lane 1, RdRp assay with NS5BΔ24GAA as a control; lane 2, RdRp assay with NS5BΔ24 and 3′-blocked RNA template. (B) Synthesized RNA was subjected to RT-PCR. RT was performed using a primer complementary to the newly synthesized minus-strand (lanes 2 and 3) or plus-strand RNA (lanes 4 and 5), followed by PCR amplification. Lane 1, 100 bp DNA ladder; lanes 2 and 4, RNA template (T) used as a control; lanes 3 and 5, RT–PCR results of newly synthesized products (P); lane 6, NS5BΔ24 protein as a control. PCR products were electrophoresed through an agarose gel and visualized by ethidium bromide staining. The expected fragments were 228 nucleotides (newly synthesized minus-strand RNA) and 373 nucleotides (synthesized plus-strand RNA) in length.

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Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

To optimize conditions for de novo RNA synthesis by the NS5BΔ24 protein, the 3′-end of minus-strand RNA (–)IRES, was used as template and newly synthesized RNA products were quantified by real-time quantitative RT–PCR (TaqMan assay), which allowed quantification of the starting copies of the reaction, rather than the end products, by monitoring the increment of fluorescence released [43]. We first examined the effects of time and temperature on RNA synthesis. As shown in Fig. 4A, the synthesis of RNA products occured for at least 120 min, and the preferred temperature for the RdRp assay was ≈ 25 °C (Fig. 4B). The divalent cations Mg2+ and/or Mn2+ are known to be required for RdRp activity. Our results showed that both Mg2+ and Mn2+ supported de novo RNA synthesis; however, Mn2+ (Fig. 4D) induced RdRp activity more efficiently than Mg2+ (Fig. 4C). Maximum activity was observed at 5–7.5 mm Mn2+ and 7.5–10 mm Mg2+. The high concentrations of Mn2+ and Mg2+ had negative impacts on RNA synthesis. Next, we determined the optimal concentrations of template and protein for RdRp assay. As shown in Fig. 4E, the synthesis of RNA products increased with increasing amounts of enzyme to 100 ng, excess amounts of enzyme inhibited the RdRp reaction. However, a high concentration of the RNA template had no significant inhibition on RNA synthesis (Fig. 4F), which differed from the previous report for hepatitis C virus RdRp using homologous RNA as template [44]. This might be a result of the various enzymes and template used in the RdRp reaction.

image

Figure 4. Effects of reaction conditions on de novo RNA synthesis with(–)IRES as template. The synthesized RNA was quantified by real-time RT–PCR. Effects of: (A) time, (B) temperature, (C) Mg2+ concentration, (D) Mn2+ concentration, (E) enzyme concentration and (F) template concentration.

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Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

To examine the effect of preincubation with 0.5 mm NTP on the initiation of RNA synthesis, the RdRp mixtures were first preincubated with 0.5 mm of each NTP for 30 min, then further incubated for 90 min with 0.25 mm NTP as substrates. Higher activities of de novo RNA synthesis were obtained when either (+)3′-UTR or (–)IRES template was preincubated with 0.5 mm NTP, respectively, compared to the RdRp reaction without preincubation (Fig. 5A,B). When (+)3′-UTR was used as template, preincubation with 0.5 mm GTP and ATP resulted in higher activities, whereas higher activities were observed following preincubation with 0.5 mm GTP and UTP using (–)IRES as template.

image

Figure 5. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis. (A) and (B) The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) mixtures were first preincubated with 0.5 mm of each NTP for 30 min, then further incubated for 90 min with 0.25 mm of each NTP as substrates. (A) (+)3′-UTR as template. (B) (–)IRES as template. Lane 1, no preincubation control; lane 2, preincubation with 0.5 mm GTP; lane 3, preincubation with 0.5 mm CTP; lane 4, preincubation with 0.5 mm ATP; lane 5, preincubation with 0.5 mm UTP. (C) and (D) Effect of substitution of the 3′-terminal cytidylate with guanidylate, adenylate or uridylate on de novo RNA synthesis. (C) (+)3′-UTR as template. (D) (–)IRES as template. Lane 1, normal template as control; lane 2, substitution of the 3′ C with G; lane 3, substitution of the 3′ C with U; lane 4, substitution of the 3′ C with A. The relative activity compared with the control is shown below each lane as a percentage.

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Previous studies have shown that a 3′-cytidylate in the template is preferred, by several viral RdRps, for de novo initiation of RNA synthesis [41,45]. To determine whether this is also the case for CSFV RdRp, we investigated the influence of substitution of the 3′-terminal cytidylate with guanidylate, adenylate or uridylate, on de novo RNA synthesis. As shown in Fig. 5C,D, changing the 3′ terminal C, of both plus-strand and minus-strand RNA templates, to G, A or U dramatically decreased RNA synthesis, indicating that a 3′-terminal cytidylate was necessary for efficient de novo RNA synthesis. Surprisingly, RNA polymerization was slightly higher when the 3′-terminal C was replaced with U, rather than A or G, with (+)3′-UTR as template (Fig. 5C). For (–)IRES as template, RNA synthesis was slightly higher when the 3′-terminal C was replaced with G, rather than with A or U (Fig. 5D). This result was in agreement with those of Reigadas et al. [45] for hepatitis C virus using (–)IRES as template, but differed from those of Kao et al. [41] for BVDV with synthesized short RNA as template, who showed that changing the 3′-terminal C to G did not direct any product synthesis. This indicated that sequences and/or structures present in other parts of the template might play an important role for efficient de novo RNA synthesis by CSFV RdRp.

Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References

Viral RNA synthesis requires the initiation, recognition and specific binding between RdRp and template RNA. The 3′-end of several positive strand RNA viruses is known to specifically bind to their respective RdRps [46–50]. To determine whether purified and refolded CSFV RdRp could specifically interact with either the plus- or minus-strand viral RNA template, North-Western blot assays were performed. tRNA was included in the binding reaction mixtures to avoid any nonspecific binding. Figure 6A shows that CSFV RdRp was able to interact with the 3′-end of viral minus-strand RNA template. No detectable complexes were observed when BSA was used as a control. The specificity of the RNA–protein interaction was confirmed by template competition assays in which unlabelled homologous or heterologous RNAs were preincubated with the protein for 10 min prior to addition of the DIG-labeled RNA template. The binding to either plus- or minus-strand RNA template showed a concentration response, because the band intensity decreased as the amount of unlabelled homologous RNA (cold RNA) was increased. The addition of a 50-fold molar excess of unlabelled RNA almost abolished the interaction of protein with DIG-labeled RNA template (Fig. 6B,C, lane 5). However, the unlabelled heterologous RNA, like yeast tRNA, showed no reduction in the intensity of the RNA–protein complexes, even at concentrations as high as 50-fold molar excess (Fig. 6B, lane 6). These results showed that the CSFV RdRp was able to specifically interact with the 3′ end of both plus- and minus-strand viral RNA templates, and that the C terminus of NS5B was not necessary for binding activity.

image

Figure 6. Specific interaction between classical swine fever virus(CSFV) RNA-dependent RNA polymerase(RdRp) and viral RNA templates by North-Western blot assays. Proteins were transferred to nitrocellulose membranes and renatured as described in the Materials and methods. (A) Binding activity of NS5BΔ24 with (–)IRES RNA template. Lane 1, purified NS5BΔ24 protein; lane 2, BSA control. Specificity of NS5BΔ24 interaction with (–)IRES RNA template (B) and (+)3′-UTR template (C). Template competition assays were performed with homologous and heterologous RNAs (cold RNA) as competitors. Increasing amounts of unlabeled RNA were preincubated with NS5BΔ24 for 10 min prior to the addition of DIG-labeled RNA template. The diagram was processed using Adobe photoshop. Lane 1, no competitor; lanes 2–5, competition with fivefold, 10-fold, 20-fold and 50-fold molar excesses of unlabeled homologous RNA, respectively; lane 6, competition with 50-fold heterlogous yeast tRNA.

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At present, we do not know whether other viral or cellular proteins might interact with RNA templates or RdRp to form a replication complex for initiating CSFV RNA synthesis. In fact, the binding of cellular proteins to the 3′-end of RNA templates has been described for some viruses [51,52]. Interaction of the viral proteins NS3 and NS5 has been reported in Japanese encephalitis virus [53], Dengue virus [54] and hepatitis C virus [55,56]. Nevertheless, our recombinant NS5BΔ24 expressed in E. coli has several properties that resemble the functional CSFV RdRp and permit an in vitro replication system (a) it possesses RNA polymerase activity with either plus- or minus-strand RNA as template, (b) it contains RNA binding activity and (c) it can initiate de novo RNA synthesis from viral RNA templates and does not require an exogenous primer. This in vitro replication system represents a starting point in the search for cis-elements at the 3′ end of RNA templates and possibly viral or cell proteins required for the initiation of viral RNA synthesis.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and methods
  4. Plasmid constructs
  5. Expression and purification of recombinant CSFV NS5BΔ24
  6. SDS/PAGE and Western blot
  7. Preparation of RNA templates and RNA labeling
  8. In vitro RdRp
  9. Northern blot analysis
  10. RT–PCR and real-time quantitative RT–PCR
  11. RNA-binding activity by North-Western blot
  12. Results and discussion
  13. Expression and purification of bacterial recombinant NS5BΔ24 and its mutant, NS5BΔ24GAA
  14. NS5BΔ24 fusion protein possessed RdRp activity
  15. Evidence of de novo RNA synthesis with either plus- or minus-strand viral RNA as template
  16. Optimal conditions for de novo RNA synthesis using (–)IRES as template
  17. Analysis of initiation of de novo RNA synthesis
  18. Specific interaction between CSFV RdRp and viral RNA templates
  19. Acknowledgements
  20. References
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