New insight into the structure of RNA in red clover necrotic mosaic virus and the role of divalent cations revealed by small-angle neutron scattering. Archives of Virology. March 13, 2013. Martin SL, He L, Meilleur F, Guenther RH, Sit TL, Lommel SA (Plants for Human Health Institute and DHMRI, NC Research Campus) and D, Heller WT. Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 27695, USA.
Red clover necrotic mosaic virus (RCNMV) is a 36-nm-diameter, T = 3 icosahedral plant virus with a genome that is split between two single-stranded RNA molecules of approximately 3.9 kb and 1.5 kb, as well as a 400-nucleotide degradation product. The structure of the virus capsid and its response to removing Ca(2+) and Mg(2+) was previously studied by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) (Sherman et al. J Virol 80:10395-10406, 2006) but the structure of the RNA was only partially resolved in that study. To better understand the organization of the RNA and conformational changes resulting from the removal of divalent cations, small-angle neutron scattering with contrast variation experiments were performed. The results expand upon the cryo-EM results by clearly showing that virtually all of the RNA is contained in a thin shell that is in contact with the interior domains of the viral capsid protein, and they provide new insight into changes in the RNA packing that result from removal of divalent cations.