Raymond R.R. Rowland photoRaymond R.R. Rowland (2004-2006)
Professor, Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology
Kansas State University

Structure and Nucleolar Function of SARS N Protein

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is an important emerging disease problem. Very little is known about the SARS virus, including how it causes disease. The nucleocapsid (N) protein is an important structural protein, which also participates in the control of cellular processes during infection. We propose a model in which the N protein localizes to the nucleolus of the host cell during virus replication and alters nucleolar function. This is a viral strategy designed to harm the host cell while benefiting the replicating virus. Therefore, nucleolar localization of N may be related to the ability of SARS virus to cause severe disease.

The analysis of the SARS virus N protein shows several regions, which we predict will be involved in the localization of the N protein to the nucleolus. The first part of this project is to investigate the domains of the SARSv N protein that are involved in transporting N into the nucleus and subsequent accumulation in the nucleolus. The second part, in collaboration with the COBRE Core C Protein Purification Group, is to construct a detailed structural model of the N protein, which will be used in future studies to better understand the mechanism of how the SARS virus causes disease and identify targets for potential antiviral drugs.