Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



JOURNAL OF VIROLOGY, July 2005, p. 8101–8112


Copyright © 2005, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


The phosphoprotein (P protein) of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is an essential subunit of the viral RNAdependent RNA polymerase and has multiple functions residing in its different domains. In the present study, we examined the role of the hypervariable hinge region of P protein in viral RNA synthesis and recovery of infectious VSV by using transposon-mediated insertion mutagenesis and deletion mutagenesis. We observed that insertions of 19-amino-acid linker sequences at various positions within this region affected replication and transcription functions of the P protein to various degrees. Interestingly, one insertion mutant was completely defective in both transcription and replication. Using a series of deletion mutants spanning the hinge region of the protein, we observed that amino acid residues 201 through 220 are required for the activity of P protein in both replication and transcription. Neither insertion nor deletion had any effect on the interaction of P protein with N or L proteins. Infectious VSVs with a deletion in the hinge region possessed retarded growth characteristics and exhibited small-plaque morphology. Interestingly, VSV containing one P protein deletion mutant (P∆7, with amino acids 141 through 200 deleted), which possessed significant levels of replication and transcription activity, could be amplified only by passage in cells expressing the wild-type P protein. We conclude that the hypervariable hinge region of the P protein plays an important role in viral RNA synthesis. Furthermore, our results provide a previously unidentified function for the P protein: it plays a critical role in the assembly of infectious VSV.