Structure and dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 proofreading exoribonuclease ExoN.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, Volume 119, Issue 9 (2022)


<p>High-fidelity replication of the large RNA genome of coronaviruses (CoVs) is mediated by a 3&#39;-to-5&#39; exoribonuclease (ExoN) in nonstructural protein 14 (nsp14), which excises nucleotides including antiviral drugs misincorporated by the low-fidelity viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) and has also been implicated in viral RNA recombination and resistance to innate immunity. Here, we determined a 1.6-Å resolution crystal structure of severe acute respiratory syndrome CoV 2 (SARS-CoV-2) ExoN in complex with its essential cofactor, nsp10. The structure shows a highly basic and concave surface flanking the active site, comprising several Lys residues of nsp14 and the N-terminal amino group of nsp10. Modeling suggests that this basic patch binds to the template strand of double-stranded RNA substrates to position the 3&#39; end of the nascent strand in the ExoN active site, which is corroborated by mutational and computational analyses. We also show that the ExoN activity can rescue a stalled RNA primer poisoned with sofosbuvir and allow RdRp to continue its extension in the presence of the chain-terminating drug, biochemically recapitulating proofreading in SARS-CoV-2 replication. Molecular dynamics simulations further show remarkable flexibility of multidomain nsp14 and suggest that nsp10 stabilizes ExoN for substrate RNA binding to support its exonuclease activity. Our high-resolution structure of the SARS-CoV-2 ExoN-nsp10 complex serves as a platform for future development of anticoronaviral drugs or strategies to attenuate the viral virulence.</p>

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