When Ebola virus nucleoprotein (NP) is expressed in mammalian cells, it assembles into helical structures. Here, the recombinant NP helix purified from cells expressing NP was characterized biochemically and morphologically. We found that the recombinant NP helix is associated with non-viral RNA, which is not protected from RNase digestion and that the morphology of the helix changes depending on the environmental salt concentration. The N-terminal 450 aa residues of NP are sufficient for these properties. However, digestion of the NP-associated RNA eliminates the plasticity of the helix, suggesting that this RNA is an essential structural component of the helix, binding to individual NP molecules via the N-terminal 450 aa. These findings enhance our knowledge of Ebola virus assembly and understanding of the Ebola virus life cycle.


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