Characterization of an In Vitro Transcription System for Peste Des Petits Ruminants Virus and Functional Characterization of RNA Triphosphatase Activity of RNA Dependent RNA Polymerase Protein L
Ansari, Mohammad Yunus
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Peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) belongs to the family paramyxoviridae which comprises non segmented negative sense RNA viruses including measles and rinderpest virus. PPRV is the causative agent of peste des petits rumaninats disease (also known as sheep or goat plague disease) in small ruminants. The viral genome contains a non segmented negative sense RNA encapsidated by viral encoded nucleocapsid protein (N-RNA). Viral transcription is carried out by the virus encoded RNA dependent RNA polymerase complex represented by the large protein L and phosphoprotein P. Viral transcription begins at the 3’ end of the genome synthesising all the viral transcripts (3’-N-P-M-F-HN-L-5’). A remarkable feature common to all members of Paramyxoviridae family is the gradient of transcription from 3’ end to the 5’ end due to attenuation of polymerase transcription at each gene junction. The objectives of the present study are characterization of peste des petits ruminants virus transcription and the associated activities required for post transcriptional modification of viral mRNA. In addition, an attempt has been made to develop in vitro transcription with heterologous combination of PPRV and RPV polymerase proteins. The first reaction in capping involves removal of γ-phosphate from triphosphate ended precursor mRNA by RNA triphosphatase. The domain having RNA triphosphatase activity within the L protein has been identified and expressed independently in E. coli. The details of the objectives are presented below. 1. Development of in vitro transcription system for PPRV mRNA synthesis In order to develop an in vitro transcription reconstitution system for PPRV, the viral RNP complex comprising large (L), phospho (P) and N protein encapsidating viral genomic RNA was purified from virus infected Vero cells. The in vitro transcription reconstituted system with RNP complex was able to synthesise all the viral mRNA as analysed by RT-PCR. As a control, total RNA from virus infected cells was isolated and analysed by RT-PCR. In order to refine the in vitro transcription system, separately expressed recombinant polymerase complex was used to reconstitute transcriptional activity in vitro. For this,viral genomic RNA (N-RNA) was purified from PPRV infected cells using CsCl density gradient centrifugation. The recombinant baculovirus for PPRV P protein was earlier generated in the lab. A recombinant baculovirus harbouring the L gene of PPRV was generated in the present study (described in part one). The viral RNA polymerase consisting of L-P complex was expressed in Sf21 insect cells and partially purified by ultra centrifugation on 5-20% glycerol gradient. Glycerol gradient fraction containing the L-P complex was found to be active in the in vitro transcription reconstitution system. Further quantitation of transcripts made in vitro and in infected cells has been carried out by real time PCR. Notably, the gradient of polarity of transcription of viral mRNA observed in vitro with the partially purified recombinant L-P complex was similar to the gradient observed in infected cells. Host proteins have been shown to modulate the transcription of many paramyxoviruses. In order to test the role of host factors, uninfected cell lysate of Vero cells was added to the in vitro transcription reaction and the transcript level was measured by real time PCR. The result showed an increase in the transcription by addition of host proteins suggesting the involvement of host factors in viral transcription. Further, the newly developed in vitro reconstitution system was used to test if recombinant L and P proteins of RPV can functionally replace PPRV L and P protein in the in vitro transcription complementation assay. The result presented in part one indicates that the L or P protein of PPRV can be replaced by RPV L and P protein in heterologous transcription reconstitution system ,with a reduced efficiency. However, the homologous polymerase complex of RPV failed to recognise the N-RNA genomic template of PPRV. 2. RNA triphosphatase activity of PPRV L protein and identification of RNA triphosphatase domain Post transcriptional modification of mRNA such as capping and methylation determines the translatability of viral mRNA by cellular ribosome. In negative sense RNA viruses, synthesis of viral mRNA is carried out by the viral encoded RNA polymerase in the host cell cytoplasm. Since the host capping and methylation machinery is localized to the nucleus, viruses should either encode their own mRNA modification enzymes or adopt alternative methods as has been reported for orthomyxoviruses (cap snatching) and picornaviruses (presence of IRES element). In order to test, if PPRV RNA polymerase possesses any of the capping activities, the RNP complex containing the viral N-RNA and RNA polymerase (L-P) were purified from virion. Using the purified RNP complex, the first activity required for mRNA capping, RNA triphosphatase was tested and the results are described in part two. RNP complex purified from virion showed both RNA triphosphatase (RTPase) activity. The RNA triphosphatase from viruses, fungi and other eukaryotes have been classified into two groups, metal dependent and metal independent. The cleavage of the γ-phosphate from triphosphate ended precursor mRNA by L protein of PPRV was found to be metal dependent. So, by the metal dependency of the RTPase reaction, PPRV L protein was assigned to the metal dependent RTPase tunnel family. One of the key features of metal dependent RTPase group members is the ability to hydrolyse γ-β phosphoanhydride bond of NTPs. PPRV L protein associated with RNP complex also was also able to cleave γ-β phosphoanhydride bond of NTPs. Owing to the large size of L protein (240 KDa), it is conceivable that the L protein functions in a modular fashion for different activities pertaining to mRNA synthesis and post transcriptional modification. Sequence comparison of L proteins from different morbilliviruses revealed the presence of three conserved domains namely domain I (aa 1-606), domain II (aa 650-1694) and domain III (aa 1717-2183). Domain II has the catalytic motif for viral RNA dependent RNA polymerase. Multiple sequence alignment of PPRV L protein with known RNA triphosphatases predicted a two hundred amino acid long region on L protein comprising the C terminus of domain II and N terminus of DIII as a possible candidate for RNA triphosphatase domain. The above predicted domain was cloned and expressed in E. coli. The ability of the purified recombinant RTPase domain to cleave γ-β phosphoanhydride bond of RNA was tested. The results described in part two suggest that the predicted RTPase domain has RNA triphosphatase activity. In addition to RNA triphosphatase, the RTPase domain also has the NTPase activity. The RNA triphosphatase of DNA viruses, yeasts and other fungi have three motifs essential for enzyme activity. Motif A and motif C are rich in glutamate and are involved in metal binding. Motif B is rich in basic amino acids and forms the centre for catalysis. The glutamate residue (E1647) of motif A of PPRV L protein RTPase domain was converted to alanine and the loss of RTPase activity was assessed. The results summarised in appendix 1 shows that the E1647A mutant has reduced RNA triphosphatase and NTPase activity.
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