An ultraweak interaction in the intrinsically disordered replication machinery is essential for measles virus function

Sci Adv. 2018 Aug 22;4(8):eaat7778. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat7778. eCollection 2018 Aug.


Measles virus genome encapsidation is essential for viral replication and is controlled by the intrinsically disordered phosphoprotein (P) maintaining the nucleoprotein in a monomeric form (N) before nucleocapsid assembly. All paramyxoviruses harbor highly disordered amino-terminal domains (PNTD) that are hundreds of amino acids in length and whose function remains unknown. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, we describe the structure and dynamics of the 90-kDa N0PNTD complex, comprising 450 disordered amino acids, at atomic resolution. NMR relaxation dispersion reveals the existence of an ultraweak N-interaction motif, hidden within the highly disordered PNTD, that allows PNTD to rapidly associate and dissociate from a specific site on N while tightly bound at the amino terminus, thereby hindering access to the surface of N. Mutation of this linear motif quenches the long-range dynamic coupling between the two interaction sites and completely abolishes viral transcription/replication in cell-based minigenome assays comprising integral viral replication machinery. This description transforms our understanding of intrinsic conformational disorder in paramyxoviral replication. The essential mechanism appears to be conserved across Paramyxoviridae, opening unique new perspectives for drug development against this family of pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Humans
  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins / chemistry
  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins / metabolism*
  • Measles / metabolism
  • Measles / virology*
  • Measles virus / physiology*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Nucleoproteins / chemistry
  • Nucleoproteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphoproteins / chemistry
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Sequence Homology
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication*
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Nucleoproteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Viral Proteins
  • nucleoprotein, Measles virus