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

Alternative proteolytic processing of the arterivirus replicase ORF1a polyprotein: evidence that NSP2 acts as a cofactor for the NSP4 serine protease.

The C-terminal half of the replicase ORF1a polyprotein of the arterivirus equine arteritis virus is processed by a chymotrypsinlike serine protease (SP) (E. J. Snijder et al., J. Biol. Chem. 271:4864-4871, 1996) located in nonstructural protein 4 (nsp4). Three probable SP cleavage sites had previously been identified in the ORF1a protein. Their proteolysis explained the main processing products generated from the C-terminal part of the ORF1a protein in infected cells (E. J. Snijder et al., J. Virol. 68:5755-5764, 1994). By using sequence comparison, ORF1a expression systems, and site-directed mutagenesis, we have now identified two additional SP cleavage sites: Glu-1430 / Gly and Glu-1452 / Ser. This means that the ORF1a protein can be cleaved into eight processing end products: nsp1 to nsp8. By microsequence analysis of the nsp5 and nsp7 N termini, we have now formally confirmed the specificity of the SP for Glu / (Gly/Ser) substrates. Importantly, our studies revealed that the C-terminal half of the ORF1a protein (nsp3-8) can be processed by the SP following two alternative pathways, which appear to be mutually exclusive. In the majority of the nsp3-8 precursors the SP cleaves the nsp4/5 site, yielding nsp3-4 and nsp5-8. Subsequently, the latter product is cleaved at the nsp7/8 site only, whereas the newly identified nsp5/6 and nsp6/7 sites appear to be inaccessible to the protease. In the alternative proteolytic cascade, which is used at a low but significant level in infected cells, it is the nsp4/5 site which remains uncleaved, while the nsp5/6 and nsp6/7 sites are processed to yield a set of previously unnoticed processing products. Coexpression studies revealed that nsp3-8 has to interact with cleaved nsp2 to allow processing of the nsp4/5 junction, the first step of the major processing pathway. When the nsp2 cofactor is absent, the nsp4/5 site cannot be processed and nsp3-8 is processed following the alternative, minor pathway.[1]


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