Enzymatic and nonenzymatic functions of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases within oligomeric arrays

RNA. 2010 Feb;16(2):382-93. doi: 10.1261/rna.1955410. Epub 2010 Jan 5.


Few antivirals are effective against positive-strand RNA viruses, primarily because the high error rate during replication of these viruses leads to the rapid development of drug resistance. One of the favored current targets for the development of antiviral compounds is the active site of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases. However, like many subcellular processes, replication of the genomes of all positive-strand RNA viruses occurs in highly oligomeric complexes on the cytosolic surfaces of the intracellular membranes of infected host cells. In this study, catalytically inactive polymerases were shown to participate productively in functional oligomer formation and catalysis, as assayed by RNA template elongation. Direct protein transduction to introduce either active or inactive polymerases into cells infected with mutant virus confirmed the structural role for polymerase molecules during infection. Therefore, we suggest that targeting the active sites of polymerase molecules is not likely to be the best antiviral strategy, as inactivated polymerases do not inhibit replication of other viruses in the same cell and can, in fact, be useful in RNA replication complexes. On the other hand, polymerases that could not participate in functional RNA replication complexes were those that contained mutations in the amino terminus, leading to altered contacts in the folded polymerase and mutations in a known polymerase-polymerase interaction in the two-dimensional protein lattice. Thus, the functional nature of multimeric arrays of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase supplies a novel target for antiviral compounds and provides a new appreciation for enzymatic catalysis on membranous surfaces within cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Catalytic Domain / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Viral
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Mutation
  • RNA Viruses / drug effects
  • RNA Viruses / genetics
  • RNA Viruses / metabolism*
  • RNA Viruses / physiology
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism*
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / chemistry
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / genetics
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Transduction, Genetic
  • Virus Replication / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • RNA, Viral
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • polymerase 3Dpol, poliovirus
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase