Mutational analysis of the active centre of coronavirus 3C-like proteases.

John Ziebuhr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Formation of the coronavirus replication-transcription complex involves the synthesis of large polyprotein precursors that are extensively processed by virus-encoded cysteine proteases. In this study, the coding sequence of the feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV) main protease, 3CL(pro), was determined. Comparative sequence analyses revealed that FIPV 3CL(pro) and other coronavirus main proteases are related most closely to the 3C-like proteases of potyviruses. The predicted active centre of the coronavirus enzymes has accepted unique replacements that were probed by extensive mutational analysis. The wild-type FIPV 3CL(pro) domain and 25 mutants were expressed in Escherichia coli and tested for proteolytic activity in a peptide-based assay. The data strongly suggest that, first, the FIPV 3CL(pro) catalytic system employs His(41) and Cys(144) as the principal catalytic residues. Second, the amino acids Tyr(160) and His(162), which are part of the conserved sequence signature Tyr(160)-Met(161)-His(162) and are believed to be involved in substrate recognition, were found to be indispensable for proteolytic activity. Third, replacements of Gly(83) and Asn(64), which were candidates to occupy the position spatially equivalent to that of the catalytic Asp residue of chymotrypsin-like proteases, resulted in proteolytically active proteins. Surprisingly, some of the Asn(64) mutants even exhibited strongly increased activities. Similar results were obtained for human coronavirus (HCoV) 3CL(pro) mutants in which the equivalent Asn residue (HCoV 3CL(pro) Asn(64)) was substituted. These data lead us to conclude that both the catalytic systems and substrate-binding pockets of coronavirus main proteases differ from those of other RNA virus 3C and 3C-like proteases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-593
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of General Virology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Virology


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