NS5 from dengue virus serotype 2 can adopt a conformation analogous to that of its zika virus and Japanese encephalitis virus homologues

Abbas El Sahili, Tingjin Sherryl Soh, Jonas Schiltz, Aïcha Gharbi-Ayachi, Cheah Chen Seh, Pei Yong Shi, Siew Pheng Lim, Julien Lescar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Flavivirus nonstructural protein 5 (NS5) contains an N-terminal methyltransferase (MTase) domain and a C-terminal polymerase (RNA-dependent RNA polymerase [RdRp]) domain fused through a 9-amino-acid linker. While the individual NS5 domains are structurally conserved, in the full-length protein, their relative orientations fall into two classes: The NS5 proteins from Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and Zika virus (ZIKV) adopt one conformation, while the NS5 protein from dengue virus serotype 3 (DENV3) adopts another. Here, we report a crystallographic structure of NS5 from DENV2 in a conformation similar to the extended one seen in JEV and ZIKV NS5 crystal structures. Replacement of the DENV2 NS5 linker with DENV1, DENV3, DENV4, JEV, and ZIKV NS5 linkers had modest or minimal effects on in vitro DENV2 MTase and RdRp activities. Heterotypic DENV NS5 linkers attenuated DENV2 replicon growth in cells, while the JEV and ZIKV NS5 linkers abolished replication. Thus, the JEV and ZIKV linkers likely hindered essential DENV2 NS5 interactions with other viral or host proteins within the virus replicative complex. Overall, this work sheds light on the dynamics of the multifunctional flavivirus NS5 protein and its interdomain linker. Targeting the NS5 linker is a possible strategy for producing attenuated flavivirus strains for vaccine design. IMPORTANCE Flaviviruses include important human pathogens, such as dengue virus and Zika virus. NS5 is a nonstructural protein essential for flavivirus RNA replication with dual MTase and RdRp enzyme activities and thus constitutes a major drug target. Insights into NS5 structure, dynamics, and evolution should inform the development of antiviral inhibitors and vaccine design. We found that NS5 from DENV2 can adopt a conformation resembling that of NS5 from JEV and ZIKV. Replacement of the DENV2 NS5 linker with the JEV and ZIKV NS5 linkers abolished DENV2 replication in cells, without significantly impacting in vitro DENV2 NS5 enzymatic activities. We propose that heterotypic flavivirus NS5 linkers impede DENV2 NS5 proteinprotein interactions that are essential for virus replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01294-19
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Dengue virus
  • Flaviviruses
  • Nonstructural protein
  • Nonstructural protein 5
  • RNA methyltransferase
  • RNA-dependent RNA polymerase
  • X-ray crystallography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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