The large (L) proteins of non-segmented, negative-strand RNA viruses are multifunctional enzymes that produce capped, methylated, and polyadenylated mRNA and replicate the viral genome. A phosphoprotein (P), required for efficient RNA-dependent RNA polymerization from the viral ribonucleoprotein (RNP) template, regulates the function and conformation of the L protein. We report the structure of vesicular stomatitis virus L in complex with its P cofactor determined by electron cryomicroscopy at 3.0 Å resolution, enabling us to visualize bound segments of P. The contacts of three P segments with multiple L domains show how P induces a closed, compact, initiation-competent conformation. Binding of P to L positions its N-terminal domain adjacent to a putative RNA exit channel for efficient encapsidation of newly synthesized genomes with the nucleoprotein and orients its C-terminal domain to interact with an RNP template. The model shows that a conserved tryptophan in the priming loop can support the initiating 5′ nucleotide. Jenni et al. describe a 3.0 Å resolution cryo-EM structure of vesicular stomatitis virus L protein, bound with its P-protein cofactor, suggesting molecular features of RNA-synthesis initiation, transcript capping, and replication-product encapsidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-60.e5
JournalCell Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 7 2020


  • antiviral
  • ebola
  • polymerase
  • rabies
  • respiratory syncytial virus
  • rhabdoviruses


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