Adenoviruses use the virus-encoded virus-associated RNA (VAI RNA) as a defense against cellular antiviral response by blocking the activation of the interferon-induced, double-stranded RNA-activated protein kinase PKR. The structure of VAI RNA consists of two long, imperfectly base-paired duplex regions connected by a complex short stem-loop at the center, referred to as the central domain. By using a series of adenovirus mutants with linker-scan mutations in the VAI RNA gene, we recently showed that the critical elements required for function in the VAI RNA molecule are in the central domain and that these same elements of the central domain are also involved in binding to PKR. In virus-infected cells, VAI RNA interacts with latent kinase, which is bound to ribosomes; this interaction takes place in a complex milieu. To more fully understand the relationship between structure and function and to determine whether the in vivo phenotype of these mutants can be reproduced in vitro, we have now analyzed these mutant VAI alleles for their ability to block the activation of a partially purified PKR from HeLa cells. We have also derived the structure of these mutants experimentally and correlated the structure with function. Without exception, when the structure of the short stem-loop of the central domain was perturbed, the mutants failed to inhibit PKR. Structural disruptions elsewhere in the central domain or in the long duplex regions of the molecule were not deleterious for in vitro function. Thus, these results support our previous findings and underscore the importance of the elements present in the central domain of the VAI RNA for its function. Our results also suggest that the interaction between PKR and VAI RNA involves a precise secondary (and tertiary) structure in the central domain. It has been suggested that VAI RNA does not activate PKR in virus- infected cells because of mismatches in the imperfectly base-paired long duplex regions. We constructed mutant VAI genes in which the imperfectly base-paired duplex regions were converted to perfectly base-paired regions and assayed in vitro for the activation of PKR. As with the wild-type VAI RNA, these mutants failed to activate PKR in vitro, while they were able to block the activation of PKR better than did the wild type. These results suggest that the failure of VAI RNA to activate PKR is not the result of mismatches in the long duplex regions. Thus, the role of the long duplex regions of VAI RNA is probably to hold the nucleotide sequences of the central domain in a conformation optimal for function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science