Modular organization of SARS coronavirus nucleocapsid protein

Journal of Biomedical Science
Chung-ke ChangTai-huang Huang


The SARS-CoV nucleocapsid (N) protein is a major antigen in severe acute respiratory syndrome. It binds to the viral RNA genome and forms the ribonucleoprotein core. The SARS-CoV N protein has also been suggested to be involved in other important functions in the viral life cycle. Here we show that the N protein consists of two non-interacting structural domains, the N-terminal RNA-binding domain (RBD) (residues 45-181) and the C-terminal dimerization domain (residues 248-365) (DD), surrounded by flexible linkers. The C-terminal domain exists exclusively as a dimer in solution. The flexible linkers are intrinsically disordered and represent potential interaction sites with other protein and protein-RNA partners. Bioinformatics reveal that other coronavirus N proteins could share the same modular organization. This study provides information on the domain structure partition of SARS-CoV N protein and insights into the differing roles of structured and disordered regions in coronavirus nucleocapsid proteins.


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