A proposed role for the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein in the formation and regulation of biomolecular condensates

FASEB Journal : Official Publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Sean M Cascarina, Eric D Ross


To date, the recently discovered SARS-CoV-2 virus has afflicted >6.9 million people worldwide and disrupted the global economy. Development of effective vaccines or treatments for SARS-CoV-2 infection will be aided by a molecular-level understanding of SARS-CoV-2 proteins and their interactions with host cell proteins. The SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein is highly homologous to the N protein of SARS-CoV, which is essential for viral RNA replication and packaging into new virions. Emerging models indicate that nucleocapsid proteins of other viruses can form biomolecular condensates to spatiotemporally regulate N protein localization and function. Our bioinformatic analyses, in combination with pre-existing experimental evidence, suggest that the SARS-CoV-2 N protein is capable of forming or regulating biomolecular condensates in vivo by interaction with RNA and key host cell proteins. We discuss multiple models, whereby the N protein of SARS-CoV-2 may harness this activity to regulate viral life cycle and host cell response to viral infection.


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