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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The bunyavirus nucleocapsid protein is an RNA chaperone: possible roles in viral RNA panhandle formation and genome replication.

Cellular RNA chaperones are crucial for the genesis of correctly folded functional RNAs. Using several complementary in vitro assays we find that the bunyavirus nucleocapsid protein (N) is an RNA chaperone. In the Bunyaviridae genomic RNA is in stable "panhandle" formation that arises through the hydrogen bonding of the terminal nucleotides of the RNA. The RNA chaperone function of N facilitates panhandle formation even though the termini are separated by >2 kb. RNA panhandle formation is likely driven by the exceptionally high base-pairing specificity of the terminal nucleotides as evidenced by P-num analysis. N protein can nonspecifically dissociate RNA duplexes. In addition, following panhandle formation, the RNA chaperone activity of N also appears to be involved in dissociation of the RNA panhandle and remains in association with the 5' terminus of the viral RNA following dissociation. Thus, N likely functions in the initiation of genome replication to allow efficient initiation of RNA synthesis by the viral polymerase. The RNA chaperone activity of N may be facilitated by an intrinsically disordered domain that catalyzes RNA unfolding driven by reciprocal entropy transfer. These observations highlight the essential features that are probably common to all RNA chaperones in which the role of the chaperone is to nonspecifically dissociate higher order structure and formation of functional higher order structure may often be predicted by RNA P-num value. The data also highlight features of N that are probably specifically important during replication of bunyavirus RNA.[1]


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