Ebola virus nucleoprotein (eNP) assembles into higher-ordered structures that form the viral nucleocapsid (NC) and serve as the scaffold for viral RNA synthesis. However, molecular insights into the NC assembly process are lacking. Using a hybrid approach, we characterized the NC-like assembly of eNP, identified novel regulatory elements, and described how these elements impact function. We generated a three-dimensional structure of the eNP NC-like assembly at 5.8 Å using electron cryo-microscopy and identified a new regulatory role for eNP helices α22-α23. Biochemical, biophysical, and mutational analyses revealed that inter-eNP contacts within α22-α23 are critical for viral NC assembly and regulate viral RNA synthesis. These observations suggest that the N terminus and α22-α23 of eNP function as context-dependent regulatory modules (CDRMs). Our current study provides a framework for a structural mechanism for NC-like assembly and a new therapeutic target.
Keywords: Ebola virus; cryo-EM; nucleocapsid; nucleoprotein; viral RNA synthesis.
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