Vaccine-derived mutation in motif D of poliovirus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase lowers nucleotide incorporation fidelity

Xinran Liu, Xiaorong Yang, Cheri A. Lee, Ibrahim M. Moustafa, Eric D. Smidansky, David Lum, Jamie J. Arnold, Craig E. Cameron, David D. Boehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


All viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRps) have a conserved structural element termed motif D. Studies of the RdRp from poliovirus (PV) have shown that a conformational change of motifDleads to efficient and faithful nucleotide addition by bringing Lys-359 into the active site where it serves as a general acid. The RdRp of the Sabin I vaccine strain has Thr-362 changed to Ile. Such a drastic change so close to Lys-359 might alter RdRp function and contribute in some way to the attenuated phenotype of Sabin type I. Here we present our characterization of the T362I RdRp.Wefind that the T362I RdRp exhibits a mutator phenotype in biochemical experiments in vitro. Using NMR, we show that this change in nucleotide incorporation fidelity correlates with a change in the structural dynamics of motif D. A recombinant PV expressing the T362I RdRp exhibits normal growth properties in cell culture but expresses a mutator phenotype in cells. For example, the T362I-containing PV is more sensitive to the mutagenic activity of ribavirin than wildtype PV. Interestingly, the T362I change was sufficient to cause a statistically significant reduction in viral virulence. Collectively, these studies suggest that residues of motif D can be targeted when changes in nucleotide incorporation fidelity are desired. Given the observation that fidelity mutants can serve as vaccine candidates, it may be possible to use engineering of motif D for this purpose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32753-32765
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 8 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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