Measles is a highly contagious human disease. We used cryo-electron microscopy and single particle-based helical image analysis to determine the structure of the helical nucleocapsid formed by the folded domain of the measles virus nucleoprotein encapsidating an RNA at a resolution of 4.3 angstroms. The resulting pseudoatomic model of the measles virus nucleocapsid offers important insights into the mechanism of the helical polymerization of nucleocapsids of negative-strand RNA viruses, in particular via the exchange subdomains of the nucleoprotein. The structure reveals the mode of the nucleoprotein-RNA interaction and explains why each nucleoprotein of measles virus binds six nucleotides, whereas the respiratory syncytial virus nucleoprotein binds seven. It provides a rational basis for further analysis of measles virus replication and transcription, and reveals potential targets for drug design.
Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.