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Title: Structural domains of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein coordinate to compact long nucleic acid substrates

The SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein performs several functions including binding, compacting, and packaging the ∼30 kb viral genome into the viral particle. N protein consists of two ordered domains, with the N terminal domain (NTD) primarily associated with RNA binding and the C terminal domain (CTD) primarily associated with dimerization/oligomerization, and three intrinsically disordered regions, an N-arm, a C-tail, and a linker that connects the NTD and CTD. We utilize an optical tweezers system to isolate a long single-stranded nucleic acid substrate to measure directly the binding and packaging function of N protein at a single molecule level in real time. We find that N protein binds the nucleic acid substrate with high affinity before oligomerizing and forming a highly compact structure. By comparing the activities of truncated protein variants missing the NTD, CTD, and/or linker, we attribute specific steps in this process to the structural domains of N protein, with the NTD driving initial binding to the substrate and ensuring high localized protein density that triggers interprotein interactions mediated by the CTD, which forms a compact and stable protein-nucleic acid complex suitable for packaging into the virion.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nucleic Acids Research
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 290-303
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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