Orsay, the first virus discovered to naturally infect Caenorhabditis elegans or any nematode, has a bipartite, positive-sense RNA genome. Sequence analyses show that Orsay is related to nodaviruses, but molecular characterizations of Orsay reveal several unique features, such as the expression of a capsid-δ fusion protein and the use of an ATG-independent mechanism for translation initiation. Here we report the crystal structure of an Orsay virus-like particle assembled from recombinant capsid protein (CP). Orsay capsid has a T = 3 icosahedral symmetry with 60 trimeric surface spikes. Each CP can be divided into three regions: an N-terminal arm that forms an extended protein interaction network at the capsid interior, an S domain with a jelly-roll, β-barrel fold forming the continuous capsid, and a P domain that forms surface spike projections. The structure of the Orsay S domain is best aligned to T = 3 plant RNA viruses but exhibits substantial differences compared with the insect-infecting alphanodaviruses, which also lack the P domain in their CPs. The Orsay P domain is remotely related to the P1 domain in calicivirus and hepatitis E virus, suggesting a possible evolutionary relationship. Removing the N-terminal arm produced a slightly expanded capsid with fewer nucleic acids packaged, suggesting that the arm is important for capsid stability and genome packaging. Because C. elegans-Orsay serves as a highly tractable model for studying viral pathogenesis, our results should provide a valuable structural framework for further studies of Orsay replication and infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12781-12786
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number35
StatePublished - Sep 2 2014


  • Crystallography
  • Microscopy
  • Virology


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