Viral RNA structural equilibria and their interactions with host proteins
[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Understanding viral RNA structure and how it functions is crucial in elucidating new drug targets. There are many kinds of viruses that utilize RNA as a critical component of their life cycle, such as retroviruses, single-stranded plus or minus sense RNA viruses, and double-stranded RNA viruses. Two viruses that are studied in this thesis are human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is a retrovirus, and hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is a single-stranded plus sense RNA virus. It has been previously reported that a human host factor, RNA helicase A (RHA), is packaged into HIV virions by binding to the primer binding site (PBS) segment of the 5'untranslated region in the HIV genomic RNA. We determined RHA is required for efficient reverse transcription prior to capsid uncoating by utilizing cell based and in vitro techniques. It has also been suggested that RHA plays other roles during HIV infection besides reverse transcription. Utilizing NMR, we demonstrated that RHA binds to the monomeric 5'UTR at the bottom of the TAR hairpin, which is different from how it binds during viral packaging. Next, we employed NMR techniques to probe the 3'end of the HCV genome called 3'X. We determined that the 3'X is in structural equilibrium between two states: an open conformation and a closed conformation. These two conformations have been suggested to play a role in minus sense synthesis and viral protein translation, respectively. Taken together, my thesis work has elucidated how many viruses manipulate and utilize their RNA structure to modulate their outcome.
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