2-C-methylated nucleotides terminate virus RNA synthesis by preventing active site closure of the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase

Alyson K. Boehr, Jamie J. Arnold, Hyung S. Oh, Craig E. Cameron, David D. Boehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The 2-C-methyl ribonucleosides are nucleoside analogs representing an important class of antiviral agents, especially against positive-strand RNA viruses. Their value is highlighted by the highly successful anti-hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir. When appropriately phosphorylated, these nucleotides are successfully incorporated into RNA by the virally encoded RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). This activity prevents further RNA extension, but the mechanism is poorly characterized. Previously, we had identified NMR signatures characteristic of formation of RdRp-RNA binary and RdRp-RNA-NTP ternary complexes for the poliovirus RdRp, including an open-to-closed conformational change necessary to prepare the active site for catalysis of phosphoryl transfer. Here we used these observations as a framework for interpreting the effects of 2-C-methyl adenosine analogs on RNA chain extension in solution-state NMR spectroscopy experiments, enabling us to gain additional mechanistic insights into 2-C-methyl ribonucleoside-mediated RNA chain termination. Contrary to what has been proposed previously, poliovirus RdRp that was bound to RNA with an incorporated 2-C-methyl nucleotide could still bind to the next incoming NTP. Our results also indicated that incorporation of the 2-C-methyl nucleotide does not disrupt RdRp-RNA interactions and does not prevent translocation. Instead, incorporation of the 2-C-methyl nucleotide blocked closure of the RdRp active site upon binding of the next correct incoming NTP, which prevented further nucleotide addition. We propose that other nucleotide analogs that act as nonobligate chain terminators may operate through a similar mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16897-16907
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 8 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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