Published on Jan. 1, 2021 in Cell volume 184, 1.
PubMed ID: 33232691
Transcription of SARS-CoV-2 mRNA requires sequential reactions facilitated by the replication and transcription complex (RTC). Here, we present a structural snapshot of SARS-CoV-2 RTC as it transitions toward cap structure synthesis. We determine the atomic cryo-EM structure of an extended RTC assembled by nsp7-nsp8-nsp12-nsp13-RNA and a single RNA-binding protein, nsp9. Nsp9 binds tightly to nsp12 (RdRp) NiRAN, allowing nsp9\xa0N terminus inserting into the catalytic center of nsp12 NiRAN, which then inhibits activity. We also show that nsp12 NiRAN possesses guanylyltransferase activity, catalyzing the formation of cap core structure (GpppA). The orientation of nsp13 that anchors the 5' extension of template RNA shows a remarkable conformational shift, resulting in zinc finger 3 of its ZBD inserting into a minor groove of paired template-primer RNA. These results reason an intermediate state of RTC toward mRNA synthesis, pave a way to understand the RTC architecture, and provide a target for antiviral development.