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Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is a picornavirus, which infects cloven-hoofed animals to cause foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). The positive-sense RNA genome contains a single open reading frame, which is translated as a polyprotein that is cleaved by viral proteases to produce the viral structural and nonstructural proteins. Initial processing occurs at three main junctions to generate four primary precursors; Lpro and P1, P2, and P3 (also termed 1ABCD, 2BC, and 3AB1,2,3CD). The 2BC and 3AB1,2,3CD precursors undergo subsequent proteolysis to generate the proteins required for viral replication, including the enzymes 2C, 3Cpro, and 3Dpol. These precursors can be processed through both cis and trans (i.e., intra- and intermolecular proteolysis) pathways, which are thought to be important for controlling virus replication. Our previous studies suggested that a single residue in the 3B3-3C junction has an important role in controlling 3AB1,2,3CD processing. Here, we use in vitro based assays to show that a single amino acid substitution at the 3B3-3C boundary increases the rate of proteolysis to generate a novel 2C-containing precursor. Complementation assays showed that while this amino acid substitution enhanced production of some nonenzymatic nonstructural proteins, those with enzymatic functions were inhibited. Interestingly, replication could only be supported by complementation with mutations in cis acting RNA elements, providing genetic evidence for a functional interaction between replication enzymes and RNA elements. IMPORTANCE Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is responsible for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), an important disease of farmed animals, which is endemic in many parts of the world and can results in major economic losses. Replication of the virus occurs within membrane-associated compartments in infected cells and requires highly coordinated processing events to produce an array of nonstructural proteins. These are initially produced as a polyprotein that undergoes proteolysis likely through both cis and trans alternative pathways (i.e., intra- and intermolecular proteolysis). The role of alternative processing pathways may help coordination of viral replication by providing temporal control of protein production and here we analyze the consequences of amino acid substitutions that change these pathways in FMDV. Our data suggest that correct processing is required to produce key enzymes for replication in an environment in which they can interact with essential viral RNA elements. These data further the understanding of RNA genome replication.


Danielle M Pierce, Connor Hayward, David J Rowlands, Nicola J Stonehouse, Morgan R Herod. Insights into Polyprotein Processing and RNA-Protein Interactions in Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus Genome Replication. Journal of virology. 2023 May 31;97(5):e0017123

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PMID: 37154761

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