Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses with a positive-sense RNA genome and with a nucleocapsid of helical symmetry. Coronavirus nucleoproteins localize to the cytoplasm and the nucleolus, a subnuclear structure, in both virus-infected primary cells and in cells transfected with plasmids that express N protein. The coronavirus N protein is required for coronavirus RNA synthesis and has RNA chaperone activity that may be involved in template switch. Nucleocapsid protein is the most abundant protein of coronavirus. During virion assembly, N protein binds to viral RNA and leads to the formation of the helical nucleocapsid. Nucleocapsid protein is a highly immunogenic phosphoprotein also implicated in viral genome replication and in modulating cell signaling pathways. Because of the conservation of the N protein sequence and its strong immunogenicity, the N protein of coronavirus is chosen as a diagnostic tool.
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