Esneau, C., Raynal, B., Roblin, P., Brûlé, S., Richard, C.-A., Fix, J., Eléouët, J.-F., and Galloux, M. (2019). Biochemical characterization of the respiratory syncytial virus N0-P complex in solution. J. Biol. Chem. 294, 3647–3660.
As all the viruses belonging to the Mononegavirales order, the nonsegmented negative-strand RNA genome of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is encapsidated by the viral nucleoprotein N. N protein polymerizes along the genomic and anti-genomic RNAs during replication. This requires the maintenance of the neosynthesized N protein in a monomeric and RNA-free form by the viral phosphoprotein P that plays the role of a chaperone protein, forming a soluble N0-P complex. We have previously demonstrated that residues 1–30 of P specifically bind to N0. Here, to isolate a stable N0-P complex suitable for structural studies, we used the N-terminal peptide of P (P40) to purify truncated forms of the N protein. We show that to purify a stable N0-P–like complex, a deletion of the first 30 N-terminal residues of N (NΔ30) is required to impair N oligomerization, whereas the presence of a full-length C-arm of N is required to inhibit RNA binding. We generated structural models of the RSV N0-P with biophysical approaches, including hydrodynamic measurements and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), coupled with biochemical and functional analyses of human RSV (hRSV) NΔ30mutants. These models suggest a strong structural homology between the hRSV and the human metapneumovirus (hMPV) N0-P complexes. In both complexes, the P40-binding sites on N0 appear to be similar, and the C-arm of N provides a high flexibility and a propensity to interact with the N RNA groove. These findings reveal two potential sites to target on N0-P for the development of RSV antivirals.