Structural basis for translational shutdown and immune evasion by the Nsp1 protein of SARS-CoV-2

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Science  17 Jul 2020:
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc8665


SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent of the current COVID-19 pandemic. A major virulence factor of SARS-CoVs is the nonstructural protein 1 (Nsp1) which suppresses host gene expression by ribosome association. Here, we show that Nsp1 from SARS-CoV-2 binds to the 40S ribosomal subunit, resulting in shutdown of mRNA translation both in vitro and in cells. Structural analysis by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) of in vitro reconstituted Nsp1-40S and various native Nsp1-40S and -80S complexes revealed that the Nsp1 C terminus binds to and obstructs the mRNA entry tunnel. Thereby, Nsp1 effectively blocks RIG-I-dependent innate immune responses that would otherwise facilitate clearance of the infection. Thus, the structural characterization of the inhibitory mechanism of Nsp1 may aid structure-based drug design against SARS-CoV-2.

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