The RNA-specific adenosine deaminase (ADAR1) is an interferon-inducible editing enzyme that converts adenosine to inosine. ADAR1 contains three distinct domains: a N-terminal Z-DNA binding domain that includes two Z-DNA binding motifs; a central double-stranded RNA binding domain that includes three dsRNA binding motifs (dsRBM); and a C-terminal catalytic domain responsible for A-to-I enzymatic activity. The E3L protein of vaccinia virus mediates interferon resistance. E3L, similar to ADAR1, also contains Z-DNA binding and dsRNA binding motifs. To assess the possible role of E3L in modulating RNA editing by ADAR1, we examined the effect of E3L on ADAR1 deaminase activity. Wild-type E3L protein was a potent inhibitor of ADAR1 deaminase enzymatic activity. Analysis of mutant E3L proteins indicated that the carboxy-proximal dsRBM of E3L was essential for antagonism of ADAR1. Surprisingly, disruption of the Z-DNA binding domain of E3L by double substitutions of two highly conserved residues also abolished its antagonistic activity, whereas deletion of the entire Z domain had little effect on the inhibition. With natural neurotransmitter pre-mRNA substrates, E3L weakly inhibited the site-selective editing activity by ADAR1 at the R/G site of the glutamate receptor B subunit (GluR-B) pre-mRNA and the A site of serotonin 2C receptor (5-HT2cR) pre-mRNA; editing of the intronic hotspot (+)60 site of GluR-B was not affected by E3L These results demonstrate that the A-to-I RNA editing activity of the IFN-inducible adenosine deaminase is impaired by the product of the vaccinia virus E3L interferon resistance gene.
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