The genome of Bunyamwera virus (BUNV) comprises three RNA segments that are encapsidated by the virus-encoded nucleocapsid (N) protein to form ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. These RNPs are the functional templates for RNA synthesis by the virus-encoded RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). We investigated the roles of conserved positively charged N-protein amino acids in RNA binding, in oligomerization to form model RNPs and in generating RNP templates active for both RNA replication and mRNA transcription. We identified several residues that performed important roles in RNA binding, and furthermore showed that a single amino acid change can differentially affect the ability of the resulting RNP templates to regulate the transcription and replication activities of the RdRp. These results indicate that the BUNV N protein possesses functions outside of its primary role of RNA encapsidation
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