Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 23986594
J. Virol. 2013 Nov;87(21):11872-83
Classical swine fever virus (CSFV) is a positive-stranded RNA virus belonging to the genus Pestivirus within the Flaviviridae family. Pivotal for processing of a large portion of the viral polyprotein is a serine protease activity within nonstructural protein 3 (NS3) that also harbors helicase and NTPase activities essential for RNA replication. In CSFV-infected cells, NS3 appears as two forms, a fully processed NS3 of 80 kDa and the precursor molecule NS2-3 of 120 kDa. Here we report the identification and mapping of additional autocatalytic intramolecular cleavages. One cleavable peptide bond occurs between Leu1781 and Met1782, giving rise to a helicase subunit of 55 kDa and, depending on the substrate, a NS2-3 fragment of 78 kDa (NS2-3p) or a NS3 protease subunit of 26 kDa (NS3p). In trans-cleavage assays using NS4-5 as a substrate, NS3p acts as a fully functional protease that is able to process the polyprotein. NS3p comprises the minimal essential protease, as deletion of Leu1781 results in inactivation. A second intramolecular cleavage was mapped to the Leu1748/Lys1749 peptide bond that yields a proteolytically inactive NS3 fragment. Deletion of either of the cleavage site residues resulted in a loss of RNA infectivity, indicating the functional importance of amino acid identity at the respective positions. Our data suggest that internal cleavage within the NS3 moiety is a common process that further extends the functional repertoires of the multifunctional NS2-3 or NS3 and represents another level of the complex polyprotein processing of Flaviviridae.