55 Amino acid linker between helicase and carboxyl terminal domains of RIG-I functions as a critical repression domain and determines inter-domain conformation
In virus-infected cells, viral RNA with non-self structural pattern is recognized by DExD/Hbox RNA helicase, RIG-I. Once RIG-I senses viral RNA, it triggers a signaling cascade, resulting in the activation of genes including type I interferon, which activates antiviral responses. Overexpression of N-terminal caspase activation and recruitment domain (CARD) is sufficient to activate signaling; however basal activity of full-length RIG-I is undetectable. The repressor domain (RD), initially identified as a.a. 735–925, is responsible for diminished basal activity; therefore, it is suggested that RIG-I is under auto-repression in uninfected cells and the repression is reversed upon its encounter with viral RNA. In this report, we further delimited RD to a.a. 747–801, which corresponds to a linker connecting the helicase and the C-terminal domain (CTD). Alanine substitutions of the conserved residues in the linker conferred constitutive activity to full-length RIG-I. We found that the constitutive active mutants do not exhibit ATPase activity, suggesting that ATPase is required for de-repression but not signaling itself. Furthermore, trypsin digestion of recombinant RIG-I revealed that the wild-type, but not linker mutant conforms to the trypsin-resistant structure, containing CARD and helicase domain. The result strongly suggests that the linker is responsible for maintaining RIG-I in a “closed” structure to minimize unwanted production of interferon in uninfected cells. These findings shed light on the structural regulation of RIG-I function.