Mouse Hepatitis Virus Stem-Loop 2 Adopts a uYNMG(U)a-Like Tetraloop Structure That Is Highly Functionally Tolerant of Base Substitutions▿
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Stem-loop 2 (SL2) of the 5'-untranslated region of the mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) contains a highly conserved pentaloop (C47-U48-U49-G50-U51) stacked on a 5-bp stem. Solution nuclear magnetic resonance experiments are consistent with a 5'-uYNMG(U)a or uCUYG(U)a tetraloop conformation characterized by an anti-C47-syn-G50 base-pairing interaction, with U51 flipped out into solution and G50 stacked on A52. Previous studies showed that U48C and U48A substitutions in MHV SL2 were lethal, while a U48G substitution was viable. Here, we characterize viruses harboring all remaining single-nucleotide substitutions in the pentaloop of MHV SL2 and also investigate the degree to which the sequence context of key pentaloop point mutations influences the MHV replication phenotype. U49 or U51 substitution mutants all are viable; C47 substitution mutants also are viable but produce slightly smaller plaques than wild-type virus. In contrast, G50A and G50C viruses are severely crippled and form much smaller plaques. Virus could not be recovered from G50U-containing mutants; rather, only true wild-type revertants or a virus, G50U/C47A, containing a second site mutation were recovered. These functional data suggest that the Watson-Crick edges of C47 and G50 (or A47 and U50 in the G50U/C47A mutant) are in close enough proximity to a hydrogen bond with U51 flipped out of the hairpin. Remarkably, increasing the helical stem stability rescues the previously lethal mutants U48C and G50U. These studies suggest that SL2 functions as an important, but rather plastic, structural element in stimulating subgenomic RNA synthesis in coronaviruses.
author list (cited authors)
Liu, P., Li, L., Keane, S. C., Yang, D., Leibowitz, J. L., & Giedroc, D. P.