The picornaviruses are a family of small positive sense single stranded RNA viruses that cause a wide range of diseases at an annual cost well into the hundreds of million dollars. Members include acute hepatitis A virus, the heart disease causing coxsackie B3 virus, rhinoviruses that cause more than half the occurrences of the common cold, and the paralyzing poliovirus. These viruses share a life cycle where RNA replication and viral assembly occurs in large membrane anchored replication complexes assembled on the surfaces of vesicles derived from the endoplasmic reticulum. The replication process is driven by a virally encoded RNA dependent RNA polymerase, the 3Dpol protein, that is responsible for the synthesis of all viral RNA. This research project is focused on the structure and assembly of viral replication centers, where we use poliovirus and coxsackievirus as our main experimental systems. We have previously solved the crystal structures of the 3Dpol proteins from both these viruses and elucidated the molecular mechanism behind the proteolytic activation of these proteins upon cleavage from the viral 3CDpro precursor protein. We are continuing our studies of picornaviral replication proteins by focusing on the structural changes associated with the formation of the 3Dpol elongation complex and on understanding how mutations in the polymerase affect viral RNA replication rate and fidelity both in vitro and in vivo. A new aspect of the project is focused on the structure and function of the membrane associated viral 2C and 2BC proteins that are responsible for host cell membrane rearrangements resulting in the formation of the vesicles upon which the viral replication complexes assemble.

Public Health Relevance

Poliovirus is a member of a large family of viruses containing a specific RNA dependent RNA polymerase protein that is responsible for replicating the viral genome. The focus of this research project is to understand how this protein functions during virus replication and find ways to interfere with its function, which can open the door to the development of antiviral drugs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
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Virology - A Study Section (VIRA)
Program Officer
Park, Eun-Chung
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Colorado State University-Fort Collins
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Fort Collins
United States
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Sholders, Aaron J; Peersen, Olve B (2014) Distinct conformations of a putative translocation element in poliovirus polymerase. J Mol Biol 426:1407-19
Springer, Courtney L; Huntoon, Harrison P; Peersen, Olve B (2013) Polyprotein context regulates the activity of poliovirus 2CATPase bound to bilayer nanodiscs. J Virol 87:5994-6004
Kempf, Brian J; Kelly, Michelle M; Springer, Courtney L et al. (2013) Structural features of a picornavirus polymerase involved in the polyadenylation of viral RNA. J Virol 87:5629-44
Gong, Peng; Kortus, Matthew G; Nix, Jay C et al. (2013) Structures of coxsackievirus, rhinovirus, and poliovirus polymerase elongation complexes solved by engineering RNA mediated crystal contacts. PLoS One 8:e60272
Kortus, Matthew G; Kempf, Brian J; Haworth, Kevin G et al. (2012) A template RNA entry channel in the fingers domain of the poliovirus polymerase. J Mol Biol 417:263-78
Campagnola, Grace; Gong, Peng; Peersen, Olve B (2011) High-throughput screening identification of poliovirus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase inhibitors. Antiviral Res 91:241-51
Hobdey, Sarah E; Kempf, Brian J; Steil, Benjamin P et al. (2010) Poliovirus polymerase residue 5 plays a critical role in elongation complex stability. J Virol 84:8072-84
Gong, Peng; Campagnola, Grace; Peersen, Olve B (2009) A quantitative stopped-flow fluorescence assay for measuring polymerase elongation rates. Anal Biochem 391:45-55
Campagnola, Grace; Weygandt, Mark; Scoggin, Kirsten et al. (2008) Crystal structure of coxsackievirus B3 3Dpol highlights the functional importance of residue 5 in picornavirus polymerases. J Virol 82:9458-64
Thompson, Aaron A; Albertini, Rebecca A; Peersen, Olve B (2007) Stabilization of poliovirus polymerase by NTP binding and fingers-thumb interactions. J Mol Biol 366:1459-74

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