Regulation of Flavivirus RNA synthesis and replication.
Background: The flaviviral nonstructural protein 5 (NS5) is a phosphoprotein, though the precise identities and roles of many specific phosphorylations remain unknown. Protein kinase G (PKG), a cGMP-dependent protein kinase, has previously been shown to phosphorylate dengue virus NS5. Methods: We used mass spectrometry to specifically identify NS5 phosphosites. Co-immunoprecipitation assays were used to study protein-protein interactions. Effects on viral replication were measured via replicon system and plaque assay titering. Results: We identified multiple sites in West Nile virus (WNV) NS5 that are phosphorylated during a WNV infection, and showed that the N-terminal methyltransferase domain of WNV NS5 can be specifically phosphorylated by PKG in vitro. Expressing PKG in cell culture led to an enhancement of WNV viral production. We hypothesized this effect on replication could be caused by factors beyond the specific phosphorylations of NS5. Here we show for the first time that PKG is also able to stably interact with a viral substrate, WNV NS5, in cell culture and in vitro. While the mosquito-borne WNV NS5 interacted with PKG, tick-borne Langat virus NS5 did not. The methyltransferase domain of NS5 is able to mediate the interaction between NS5 and PKG, and mutating positive residues in the αE region of the methyltransferase interrupts the interaction. These same mutations completely inhibited WNV replication. Conclusions: PKG is not required for WNV replication, but does make a stable interaction with NS5. While the consequence of the NS5:PKG interaction when it occurs is unclear, mutational data demonstrates that this interaction occurs in a region of NS5 that is otherwise necessary for replication. Overall, the results identify an interaction between virus and a cellular kinase and suggest a role for a host kinase in enhancing flaviviral replication.