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Open Access Research article

Biochemical characterization of a recombinant Japanese encephalitis virus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase

Yeon-Gu Kim, Ji-Seung Yoo, Jung-Hee Kim, Chan-Mi Kim and Jong-Won Oh*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biotechnology, Yonsei University, 134 Shinchon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-749, Korea

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BMC Molecular Biology 2007, 8:59  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-8-59

Published: 11 July 2007

Abstract

Background

Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) NS5 is a viral nonstructural protein that carries both methyltransferase and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) domains. It is a key component of the viral RNA replicase complex that presumably includes other viral nonstructural and cellular proteins. The biochemical properties of JEV NS5 have not been characterized due to the lack of a robust in vitro RdRp assay system, and the molecular mechanisms for the initiation of RNA synthesis by JEV NS5 remain to be elucidated.

Results

To characterize the biochemical properties of JEV RdRp, we expressed in Escherichia coli and purified an enzymatically active full-length recombinant JEV NS5 protein with a hexahistidine tag at the N-terminus. The purified NS5 protein, but not the mutant NS5 protein with an Ala substitution at the first Asp of the RdRp-conserved GDD motif, exhibited template- and primer-dependent RNA synthesis activity using a poly(A) RNA template. The NS5 protein was able to use both plus- and minus-strand 3'-untranslated regions of the JEV genome as templates in the absence of a primer, with the latter RNA being a better template. Analysis of the RNA synthesis initiation site using the 3'-end 83 nucleotides of the JEV genome as a minimal RNA template revealed that the NS5 protein specifically initiates RNA synthesis from an internal site, U81, at the two nucleotides upstream of the 3'-end of the template.

Conclusion

As a first step toward the understanding of the molecular mechanisms for JEV RNA replication and ultimately for the in vitro reconstitution of viral RNA replicase complex, we for the first time established an in vitro JEV RdRp assay system with a functional full-length recombinant JEV NS5 protein and characterized the mechanisms of RNA synthesis from nonviral and viral RNA templates. The full-length recombinant JEV NS5 will be useful for the elucidation of the structure-function relationship of this enzyme and for the development of anti-JEV agents.