The kinetic, thermodynamic, and structural basis for fidelity of nucleic acid polymerases remains controversial. An understanding of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) fidelity has become a topic of considerable interest as a result of recent experiments that show that a 2-fold increase in fidelity attenuates viral pathogenesis and a 2-fold decrease in fidelity reduces viral fitness. Here we show that a conformational change step preceding phosphoryl transfer is a key fidelity checkpoint for the poliovirus RdRp (3D pol). We provide evidence that this conformational change step is orientation of the triphosphate into a conformation suitable for catalysis, suggesting a kinetic and structural model for RdRp fidelity that can be extrapolated to other classes of nucleic acid polymerases. Finally, we show that a site remote from the catalytic center can control this checkpoint, which occurs at the active site. Importantly, similar connections between a remote site and the active site exist in a wide variety of viral RdRps. The capacity for sites remote from the catalytic center to alter fidelity suggests new possibilities for targeting the viral RdRp for antiviral drug development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology