Mutational analysis reveals a noncontractile but interactive role of actin and profilin in viral RNA-dependent RNA synthesis

J Virol. 2009 Nov;83(21):10869-76. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01271-09. Epub 2009 Aug 26.


As obligatory parasites, viruses co-opt a variety of cellular functions for robust replication. The expression of the nonsegmented negative-strand RNA genome of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a significant pediatric pathogen, absolutely requires actin and is stimulated by the actin-regulatory protein profilin. As actin is a major contractile protein, it was important to determine whether the known functional domains of actin and profilin were important for their ability to activate RSV transcription. Analyses of recombinant mutants in a reconstituted RSV transcription system suggested that the divalent-cation-binding domain of actin is critically needed for binding to the RSV genome template and for the activation of viral RNA synthesis. In contrast, the nucleotide-binding domain and the N-terminal acidic domain were needed neither for template binding nor for transcription. Specific surface residues of actin, required for actin-actin contact during filamentation, were also nonessential for viral transcription. Unlike actin, profilin did not directly bind to the viral template but was recruited by actin. Mutation of the interactive residues of actin or profilin, resulting in the loss of actin-profilin binding, also abolished profilin's ability to stimulate viral transcription. Together, these results suggest that actin acts as a classical transcription factor for the virus by divalent-cation-dependent binding to the viral template and that profilin acts as a transcriptional cofactor, in part by associating with actin. This essential viral role of actin is independent of its contractile cellular role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actins* / chemistry
  • Actins* / genetics
  • Actins* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cations, Divalent / metabolism
  • Chickens
  • DNA Mutational Analysis*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation
  • Profilins* / chemistry
  • Profilins* / genetics
  • Profilins* / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human* / genetics
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human* / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Actins
  • Cations, Divalent
  • Profilins
  • RNA, Viral
  • Transcription Factors