MERS-CoV is the only lethal human CoV still endemic in the Arabian Peninsula and neither vaccine nor therapeutics against MERS-CoV infection is available. The nsp1 of CoV is thought to be a major virulence factor because it suppresses protein synthesis through the degradation of host mRNA. In contrast, viral RNA circumvents the nsp1-mediated translational shutoff for an efficient propagation. In this study, we identified amino acid residue in MERS-CoV nsp1 that differ from those of SARS-CoV nsp1, and that appear to be crucial for circumventing the translational shutoff. In addition, reverse genetics analysis suggested the presence of a cis-acting element at the 5'-terminus of the nsp1-coding region, which contributes to the specific recognition of viral RNA that is required for an efficient viral replication. Our results suggest the CoVs share a common mechanism for circumventing the nsp1-mediated translational shutoff.
Keywords: Coronavirus; MERS-CoV; Nsp1; RNA recognition; Viral replication.
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