The structural basis of pathogenic subgenomic flavivirus RNA (sfRNA) production

Science. 2014 Apr 18;344(6181):307-10. doi: 10.1126/science.1250897.


Flaviviruses are emerging human pathogens and worldwide health threats. During infection, pathogenic subgenomic flaviviral RNAs (sfRNAs) are produced by resisting degradation by the 5'→3' host cell exonuclease Xrn1 through an unknown RNA structure-based mechanism. Here, we present the crystal structure of a complete Xrn1-resistant flaviviral RNA, which contains interwoven pseudoknots within a compact structure that depends on highly conserved nucleotides. The RNA's three-dimensional topology creates a ringlike conformation, with the 5' end of the resistant structure passing through the ring from one side of the fold to the other. Disruption of this structure prevents formation of sfRNA during flaviviral infection. Thus, sfRNA formation results from an RNA fold that interacts directly with Xrn1, presenting the enzyme with a structure that confounds its helicase activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing
  • Base Sequence
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Encephalitis Virus, Murray Valley / genetics*
  • Encephalitis Virus, Murray Valley / pathogenicity
  • Exoribonucleases / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry*
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism


  • RNA, Viral
  • Exoribonucleases

Associated data

  • PDB/4PQV