Bruno Coutard, Karine Barral, Julie Lichière, Barbara Selisko, Baptiste Martin, Wahiba Aouadi, Miguel Ortiz Lombardia, Françoise Debart, Jean-Jacques Vasseur, Jean Claude Guillemot, Bruno Canard, Etienne Decroly
The Flavivirus Zika virus (ZIKV) is the causal agent of neurological disorders like microcephaly in newborns or Guillain-Barre syndrome. Its NS5 protein embeds a methyltransferase (MTase) domain involved in the formation of the viral mRNA cap. We investigated the structural and functional properties of the ZIKV MTase. We show that the ZIKV MTase can methylate RNA cap structures at the N-7 position of the cap, and at the 2'-O position on the ribose of the first nucleotide, yielding a cap-1 structure. In addition, the ZIKV MTase methylates the ribose 2'-O position of internal adenosines of RNA substrates. The crystal structure of the ZIKV MTase determined at a 2.01-Å resolution reveals a crystallographic homodimer. One chain is bound to the methyl donor (S-adenosyl-L-methionine [SAM]) and shows a high structural similarity to the dengue virus (DENV) MTase. The second chain lacks SAM and displays conformational changes in the X -helix contributing to the SAM and RNA binding. These conformational modifications reveal a possible molecular mechanism of the enzymatic turnover involving a conserved Ser/Arg motif. In the second chain, the SAM binding site accommodates a sulfate close to a glycerol that could serve as a basis for structure-based drug design. In addition, compounds known to inhibit the DENV MTase show similar inhibition potency on the ZIKV MTase. Altogether these results contribute to a better understanding of the ZIKV MTase, a central player in viral replication and host innate immune response, and lay the basis for the development of potential antiviral drugs.