The large (L) protein of Sendai virus complexes with the phosphoprotein (P) to form the active RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. The L protein is believed to be responsible for all of the catalytic activities of the polymerase associated with transcription and replication. Sequence alignment of the L proteins of negative-strand RNA viruses has revealed six conserved domains (I-VI) thought to be responsible for the enzymatic activities. Charged-to-alanine mutagenesis was carried out in a highly charged, conserved region (amino acids 533-569) within domain II to test the hypothesis of Müller et al. [J. Gen. Virol. 75, 1345-1352 (1994)] that this region may contribute to the template binding domain of the viral RNA polymerase. The mutant proteins were tested for expression and stability, the ability to synthesize viral RNA in vitro and in vivo, and protein-protein interactions. Five of the seven mutants were completely defective in all viral RNA synthesis, whereas two mutants showed significant levels of both mRNA and leader RNA synthesis. One of the transcriptionally active mutants also gave genome replication in vitro although not in vivo. The other mutant was defective in all the replication assays and thus the mutation uncoupled transcription and replication. Because the completely inactive L mutants can bind to the P protein to form the polymerase complex and the polymerases bind to the viral nucleocapsid template, these amino acids are essential for the activity of the L protein.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.