Role of spatial patterning of N-protein interactions in SARS-CoV-2 genome packaging.

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Ian SeimAmy S Gladfelter


Viruses must efficiently and specifically package their genomes while excluding cellular nucleic acids and viral sub-genomic fragments. Some viruses use specific packaging signals, which are conserved sequence/structure motifs present only in the full-length genome. Recent work has shown that viral proteins important for packaging can undergo liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS), where one or two viral nucleic acid binding proteins condense with the genome. The compositional simplicity of viral components lends itself well to theoretical modeling compared to more complex cellular organelles. Viral LLPS can be limited to one or two viral proteins and a single genome that is enriched in LLPS-promoting features. In our previous study, we observed that LLPS-promoting sequences of SARS-CoV-2 are located at the 5' and 3' ends of the genome, whereas the middle of the genome is predicted to consist mostly of solubilizing elements. Is this arrangement sufficient to drive single genome packaging, genome compaction, and genome cyclization? We addressed these questions using a coarse-grained polymer model, LASSI, to study the LLPS of nucleocapsid protein with RNA sequences that either promote LLPS or solubilization. With respect to genome...Continue Reading

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