The NS3 protein of flaviviruses is a multifunctional polypeptide required for virus replication. Enzymic activities that have been demonstrated or predicted from the presence of sequence motifs include protease, NTPase, helicase and RNA triphosphatase. Both full-length and truncated forms of NS3 have been identified in infected cells. To examine internal cleavage of the NS3 protein of dengue virus 2 (DEN-2), infected cells or COS cells transfected with cDNA encoding NS2B/3 were radiolabelled and immunoprecipitated with antiserum against NS3 or hyperimmune mouse ascitic fluid. The polypeptides detected were NS2B/3 (Mr 83000), NS3 (Mr 69000), NS3' (Mr 50000) and NS3" (Mr 19000). The latter polypeptide has not been previously identified. For DEN-2, it has been proposed that NS3' results from cleavage at the site ...R457R / GR460... within an RNA helicase sequence motif of NS3. Our results demonstrated that cleavage occurred at this site, and that prior cleavage between NS2B/NS3 was not necessary.


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