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

Role of the C-terminal tryptophan residue for the structure-function of the alphavirus capsid protein.

The Semliki Forest virus capsid protein is a multifunctional protein which packages genomic RNA into nucleocapsid structures and binds to viral spike protein during budding. In addition, the capsid protein has an autoproteolytic activity whereby the C-terminal tryptophan is used as the substrate for cotranslational cleavage of the viral structure polyprotein. The autoproteolytic domain of the capsid protein has a chymotrypsin-like fold but has two additional short beta-strands which place the tryptophan into the active site. Here, we have substituted the C-terminal tryptophan of Semliki Forest virus capsid protein for alanine, arginine and phenylalanine and analysed the effects on different functions of the C protein such as nucleocapsid formation, spike binding and autoproteolytic activity. We found that (i) tryptophan is a better substrate for the autoproteolytic activity, (ii) the wild-type tryptophan is the only residue that allows efficient viral growth and (iii) an aromatic residue is important for correct initial folding and stability of the protein.[1]


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