During mRNA synthesis, the polymerase of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) copies the genomic RNA to produce five capped and polyadenylated mRNAs with the 5′-terminal structure 7mGpppAmpApCpApGpNpNpApUpCp. The 5′ mRNA processing events are poorly understood but presumably require triphosphatase, guanylyltransferase, [guanine-N-7]- and [ribose-2′-O]- methyItransferase (MTase) activities. Consistent with a role in mRNA methylation, conserved domain VI of the 241-kDa large (L) polymerase protein shares sequence homology with a bacterial [ribose-2′-O] -MTase, FtsJ/RrmJ. In this report, we generated six L gene mutations to test this homology. Individual substitutions to the predicted MTase active-site residues K1651, D1762, K1795, and E1833 yielded viruses with pinpoint plaque morphologies and 10- to 1,000-fold replication defects in single-step growth assays. Consistent with these defects, viral RNA and protein synthesis was diminished. In contrast, alteration of residue G1674 predicted to bind the methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine did not significantly perturb viral growth and gene expression. Analysis of the mRNA cap structure revealed that alterations to the predicted active site residues decreased [guanine-N-7]- and [ribose-2′-O]- MTase activity below the limit of detection of our assay. In contrast, the alanine substitution at G1674 had no apparent consequence. These data show that the predicted MTase active-site residues K16S1, D1762, K1795, and E1833 within domain VI of the VSV L protein are essential for mRNA cap methylation. A model of mRNA processing consistent with these data is presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13373-13384
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2005


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