Viral proteins are known to be methylated by host protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) necessary for the viral life cycle, but it remains unknown whether severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) proteins are methylated. Herein, we show that PRMT1 methylates SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein at residues R95 and R177 within RGG/RG motifs, preferred PRMT target sequences. We confirmed arginine methylation of N protein by immunoblotting viral proteins extracted from SARS-CoV-2 virions isolated from cell culture. Type I PRMT inhibitor (MS023) or substitution of R95 or R177 with lysine inhibited interaction of N protein with the 5'-UTR of SARS-CoV-2 genomic RNA, a property required for viral packaging. We also defined the N protein interactome in HEK293 cells, which identified PRMT1 and many of its RGG/RG substrates, including the known interacting protein G3BP1 as well as other components of stress granules (SGs), which are part of the host antiviral response. Methylation of R95 regulated the ability of N protein to suppress the formation of SGs, as R95K substitution or MS023 treatment blocked N-mediated suppression of SGs. Also, the coexpression of methylarginine reader Tudor domain-containing protein 3...Continue Reading
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