Shope fibroma virus (SFV) is a Leporipoxvirus closely related to the highly virulent myxoma virus. The DNA sequence of the BamHI N fragment of the SFV DNA genome was determined, and the single complete open reading frame (N1R) was characterized. The protein encoded by the N1R gene was found to contain a C3HC4 RING finger motif at the C terminus. This C3HC4 motif is the hallmark of a growing family of proteins, many of which are involved in regulation of gene expression, DNA repair, or DNA recombination. Complete homologs of the SFV N1R gene were also detected in variola virus, myxoma virus, and vaccinia virus strain IHD-W. In contrast, the gene is completely absent from vaccinia virus strain Copenhagen, and in vaccinia virus strain WR, the open reading frame is truncated prior to the zinc binding domain because of an 11-bp deletion, thus producing a frameshift and premature stop codon. Recombinant N1R protein from SFV was expressed in Escherichia coli and shown to bind zinc in a specific manner. Using fluorescence microscopy to visualize a peptide epitope tag (derived from ICP27 of herpes simplex virus) fused to the N terminus of the poxvirus proteins, we observed that the N1R protein of SFV and its homologs in myxoma virus and vaccinia virus IHD-W were localized primarily to the virus factories in the cytoplasm of infected cells and, to a lesser degree, the host cell nucleus. The truncated protein of vaccinia virus strain WR failed to localize in this manner but instead was observed throughout the cytoplasm
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