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Nature ; 609(7928): 793-800, 2022 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1984402


The RNA genome of SARS-CoV-2 contains a 5' cap that facilitates the translation of viral proteins, protection from exonucleases and evasion of the host immune response1-4. How this cap is made in SARS-CoV-2 is not completely understood. Here we reconstitute the N7- and 2'-O-methylated SARS-CoV-2 RNA cap (7MeGpppA2'-O-Me) using virally encoded non-structural proteins (nsps). We show that the kinase-like nidovirus RdRp-associated nucleotidyltransferase (NiRAN) domain5 of nsp12 transfers the RNA to the amino terminus of nsp9, forming a covalent RNA-protein intermediate (a process termed RNAylation). Subsequently, the NiRAN domain transfers the RNA to GDP, forming the core cap structure GpppA-RNA. The nsp146 and nsp167 methyltransferases then add methyl groups to form functional cap structures. Structural analyses of the replication-transcription complex bound to nsp9 identified key interactions that mediate the capping reaction. Furthermore, we demonstrate in a reverse genetics system8 that the N terminus of nsp9 and the kinase-like active-site residues in the NiRAN domain are required for successful SARS-CoV-2 replication. Collectively, our results reveal an unconventional mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 caps its RNA genome, thus exposing a new target in the development of antivirals to treat COVID-19.

RNA Caps , RNA, Viral , SARS-CoV-2 , Viral Proteins , Antiviral Agents , COVID-19/virology , Catalytic Domain , Guanosine Diphosphate/metabolism , Humans , Methyltransferases/metabolism , Nucleotidyltransferases/chemistry , Nucleotidyltransferases/metabolism , Protein Domains , RNA Caps/chemistry , RNA Caps/genetics , RNA Caps/metabolism , RNA, Viral/chemistry , RNA, Viral/genetics , RNA, Viral/metabolism , RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/enzymology , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Viral Proteins/chemistry , Viral Proteins/metabolism , COVID-19 Drug Treatment