Coronavirus (CoV) nucleocapsid (N) protein is a highly phosphorylated protein required for viral replication, but whether its phosphorylation and the related kinases are involved in the viral life cycle is unknown. We found the severe acute respiratory syndrome CoV N protein to be an appropriate system to address this issue. Using high resolution PAGE analysis, this protein could be separated into phosphorylated and unphosphorylated isoforms. Mass spectrometric analysis and deletion mapping showed that the major phosphorylation sites were located at the central serine-arginine (SR)-rich motif that contains several glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3 substrate consensus sequences. GSK-3-specific inhibitor treatment dephosphorylated the N protein, and this could be recovered by the constitutively active GSK-3 kinase. Immunoprecipitation brought down both N and GSK-3 proteins in the same complex, and the N protein could be phosphorylated directly at its SR-rich motif by GSK-3 using an in vitro kinase assay. Mutation of the two priming sites critical for GSK-3 phosphorylation in the SR-rich motif abolished N protein phosphorylation. Finally, GSK-3 inhibitor was found to reduce N phosphorylation in the severe acute respiratory syndrome...Continue Reading
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