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Specific interaction of capsid protein and importin-alpha/beta influences West Nile virus production.

ABSTRACT

West Nile virus (WNV) capsid (C) protein has been shown to enter the nucleus of infected cells. However, the mechanism by which C protein enters the nucleus is unknown. In this study, we have unveiled for the first time that nuclear transport of WNV and Dengue virus C protein is mediated by their direct association with importin-alpha. This interplay is mediated by the consensus sequences of bipartite nuclear localization signal located between amino acid residues 85-101 together with amino acid residues 42 and 43 of C protein. Elucidation of biological significance of importin-alpha/C protein interaction demonstrated that the binding efficiency of this association influenced the nuclear entry of C protein and virus production. Collectively, this study illustrated the molecular mechanism by which the C protein of arthropod-borne flavivirus enters the nucleus and showed the importance of importin-alpha/C protein interaction in the context of flavivirus life-cycle.