An interaction between the methyltransferase and RNA dependent RNA polymerase domains of the West Nile virus NS5 protein

J Gen Virol. 2013 Sep;94(Pt 9):1961-1971. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.054395-0. Epub 2013 Jun 5.


The flavivirus nonstructural protein 5 (NS5) is a large protein that is structurally conserved among members of the genus, making it an attractive target for antiviral drug development. The protein contains a methyltransferase (MTase) domain and an RNA dependent RNA polymerase (POL) domain. Previous studies with dengue viruses have identified a genetic interaction between residues 46-49 in the αA3-motif in the MTase and residue 512 in POL. These genetic interactions are consistent with structural modelling of these domains in West Nile virus (WNV) NS5 that predict close proximity of these regions of the two domains, and potentially a functional interaction mediated via the αA3-motif. To demonstrate an interaction between the MTase and POL domains of the WNV NS5 protein, we co-expressed affinity-tagged recombinant MTase and POL proteins in human embryonic kidney cells with simian virus 40 large T antigen (HEK293T cells) and performed pulldown assays using an antibody to the flag tag on POL. Western blot analysis with an anti-MTase mAb revealed that the MTase protein was specifically co-immunoprecipitated with POL, providing the first evidence of a specific interaction between these domains. To further assess the role of the αA3 helix in this interaction, selected residues in this motif were mutated in the recombinant MTase and the effect on POL interaction determined by the pulldown assay. These mutations were also introduced into a WNV infectious clone (FLSDX) and the replication properties of these mutant viruses assessed. While none of the αA3 mutations had a significant effect on the MTase-POL association in pulldown assays, suggesting that these residues were not specific to the interaction, an E46L mutation completely abolished virus viability indicating a critical requirement of this residue in replication. Failure to generate compensatory mutations in POL to rescue replication, even after several passages of the transfection supernatant in Vero cells, precluded further conclusion of the role of this residue in the context of MTase-POL interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Centrifugation
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Mutant Proteins / genetics
  • Mutant Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs*
  • Protein Interaction Mapping
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication*
  • West Nile virus / enzymology*
  • West Nile virus / physiology*


  • Mutant Proteins
  • NS5 protein, flavivirus
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins
  • Methyltransferases
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase