Role of Dynamics and Mutations in Interactions of a Zinc Finger Antiviral Protein with CG-rich Viral RNA.

Academic Article


  • Zinc finger antiviral protein (ZAP) is a host antiviral factor that selectively inhibits the replication of a variety of viruses. ZAP recognizes the CG-enriched RNA sequences and activates the viral RNA degradation machinery. In this work, we investigated the dynamics of a ZAP/RNA complex and computed the energetics of mutations in ZAP that affect its binding to the viral RNA. The crystal structure of a mouse-ZAP/RNA complex showed that RNA interacts with the zinc finger 2 (ZF2) and ZF3 domains. However, we found that due to the dynamic behavior of the single-stranded RNA, the terminal nucleotides C1 and G2 of RNA change their positions from the ZF3 to the ZF1 domain. Moreover, the electrostatic interactions between the zinc ions and the viral RNA provide further stability to the ZAP/RNA complex. We also provide structural and thermodynamic evidence for seven residue pairs (C1-Arg74, C1-Arg179, G2-Arg74, U3-Lys76, C4-Lys76, G5-Arg95, and U6-Glu204) that show favorable ZAP/RNA interactions, although these interactions were not observed in the ZAP/RNA crystal structure. Consistent with the observations from the mouse-ZAP/RNA crystal structure, we found that four residue pairs (C4-Lys89, C4-Leu90, C4-Tyr108, and G5-Lys107) maintained stable interactions in MD simulations. Based on experimental mutagenesis studies and our residue-level interaction analysis, we chose seven residues (Arg74, Lys76, Lys89, Arg95, Lys107, Tyr108, and Arg179) for individual alanine mutations. In addition, we studied mutations in those residues that are only observed in the crystal structures as interacting with RNA (Tyr98, Glu148, and Arg170). Out of these 10 mutations, we found that the Ala mutation in each of the five residues Arg74, Lys76, Lys89, Lys107, and Glu148 significantly reduced the binding affinity of ZAP to RNA.
  • Authors

  • Pal, Saikat
  • Kumar, Amit
  • Vashisth, Harish
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • February 13, 2023
  • Keywords

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Mice
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutation
  • RNA, Viral
  • Virus Replication
  • Zinc Fingers
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 1002
  • End Page

  • 1011
  • Volume

  • 63
  • Issue

  • 3