1887

Abstract

The proteolytic processing of a non-structural polyprotein segment from the cytoplasmic domain of NS2A to the C terminus of NS5 of Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus was examined, when expressed from cDNA via a vaccinia virus recombinant, in transiently transfected COS cells, or synthesized by cell-free translation. Cleavages mediated by the virus-encoded proteinase domain in NS3 at the junctions of NS2A-2B, NS2B-3 and NS4B-5 were catalysed efficiently. However, the cleavage at the NS3-4A junction, also mediated by the NS3 proteinase, was greatly delayed. Little or no NS3 was found, but an 85K precursor molecule accumulated; this was identified as NS3-4A. Termination codons were introduced by site-directed mutagenesis at the junctions of the NS3-4A, NS4A-4B and NS4B-5 genes to generate C-terminal truncations of the MVE virus polyprotein segment. In expression studies of these constructs the predicted NS3-mediated proteolytic cleavages were catalysed, except for that at the NS3-4A junction. In co-infections and co-transfections with constructs encoding the MVE virus non-structural polyprotein region truncated at the C termini of NS3 or NS4A, efficient processing at the NS3-4A site was induced. Thus it appears that the MVE virus polyprotein is cleaved inefficiently in cis at the NS3-4A junction, whereas the site is processed efficiently in trans by mature NS3. The NS3-4A precursor is also seen in flavivirus-infected cells. Its function remains to be determined, but it could play a role in the replication of flavivirus, in view of the importance of polyprotein processing in the regulation of gene expression of positive-stranded RNA viruses, the modulation of processing at the NS3-4A site by NS3 or NS3-containing precursors described in the present study and the importance of NS3 as an integral part of the viral polymerase complex.

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1992-09-01
2022-01-25
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