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

Formation of a functional hepatitis B virus replication initiation complex involves a major structural alteration in the RNA template.

The DNA genome of a hepatitis B virus is generated by reverse transcription of the RNA pregenome. Replication initiation does not involve a nucleic acid primer; instead, the hepadnavirus P protein binds to the structured RNA encapsidation signal epsilon, from which it copies a short DNA primer that becomes covalently linked to the enzyme. Using in vitro-translated duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) P protein, we probed the secondary structure of the protein-bound DHBV epsilon RNA (Depsilon) and observed a marked conformational change compared to free Depsilon RNA. Several initiation-competent mutant RNAs with a different free-state structure were similarly altered, whereas a binding-competent but initiation-deficient variant was not, indicating the importance of the rearrangement for replication initiation and suggesting a mechanistic coupling to encapsidation.[1]


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