The original annotation of the vaccinia virus (VACV) genome was limited to open reading frames (ORFs) of at least 65 amino acids. Here, we characterized a 35-amino-acid ORF (O3L) located between ORFs O2L and I1L. ORFs similar in length to O3L were found at the same genetic locus in all vertebrate poxviruses. Although amino acid identities were low, the presence of a characteristic N-terminal hydrophobic domain strongly suggested that the other poxvirus genes were orthologs. Further studies demonstrated that the O3 protein was expressed at late times after infection and incorporated into the membrane of the mature virion. An O3L deletion mutant was barely viable, producing tiny plaques and a 3-log reduction in infectious progeny. A mutant VACV with a regulated O3L gene had a similar phenotype in the absence of inducer. There was no apparent defect in virus morphogenesis, though O3-deficient virus had low infectivity. The impairment was shown to be at the stage of virus entry, as cores were not detected in the cytoplasm after virus adsorption. Furthermore, O3-deficient virus did not induce fusion of infected cells when triggered by low pH. These characteristics are hallmarks of a group of proteins that form the entry/fusion complex (EFC). Affinity purification experiments demonstrated an association of O3 with EFC proteins. In addition, the assembly or stability of the EFC was impaired when expression of O3 was repressed. Thus, O3 is the newest recognized component of the EFC and the smallest VACV protein shown to have a function.
Composed of 35 amino acids, O3 is the smallest characterized protein encoded by vaccinia virus (VACV) and is an integral component of the entry-fusion complex (EFC). O3 is conserved with 100% identity in all orthopoxviruses except for monkeypox viruses, whose O3 homologs have 2 to 3 amino acid substitutions. Since O3 is part of the EFC, high conservation could suggest an immutable requirement for interaction with multiple proteins. Chordopoxviruses of other genera also encode small proteins with a characteristic predicted N-terminal α-helical hydrophobic domain followed by basic amino acids and proline in the same relative genome location as that of VACV O3. However, the statistical significance of their similarity to VACV O3 is low due to the large contribution of the transmembrane domain, their small size, and their sequence diversity. Nevertheless, trans-complementation experiments demonstrated the ability of a representative O3-like protein from each chordopoxvirus genus to rescue the infectivity of a VACV mutant that was unable to express endogenous O3. Moreover, recombinant viruses expressing O3 homologs in place of O3 replicated and formed plaques as well or nearly as well as wild-type VACV. The O3 homologs expressed by the recombinant VACVs were incorporated into the membranes of mature virions and, with one exception, remained stably associated with the detergent-extracted and affinity-purified EFC. The ability of the sequence-divergent O3 homologs to coordinate function with VACV entry proteins suggests the conservation of structural motifs. Analysis of chimeras formed by swapping domains of O3 with those of other proteins indicated that the N-terminal transmembrane segment was responsible for EFC interactions and for the complementation of infectivity.
Thirteen novel avipoxviruses were isolated from birds from different regions of South Africa. These viruses could be divided into six groups, according to gross pathology and pock appearance on chick chorioallantoic membranes (CAMs). Histopathology revealed distinct differences in epidermal and mesodermal cell proliferation, as well as immune cell infiltration, caused by the different avipoxviruses, even within groups of viruses causing similar CAM gross pathology. In order to determine the genetic relationships among the viruses, several conserved poxvirus genetic regions, corresponding to vaccinia virus (VACV) A3L (fpv167 locus, VACV P4b), G8R (fpv126 locus, VLTF-1), H3L (fpv140 locus, VACV H3L) and A11R–A12L (fpv175–176 locus) were analysed phylogenetically. The South African avipoxvirus isolates in this study all grouped in clade A, in either subclade A2 or A3 of the genus Avipoxvirus and differ from the commercial fowlpox vaccines (subclade A1) in use in the South African poultry industry. Analysis of different loci resulted in different branching patterns. There was no correlation between gross morphology, histopathology, pock morphology and phylogenetic grouping. There was also no correlation between geographical distribution and virus phenotype or genotype.
Poxviruses encode a number of secreted virulence factors that modulate the host immune response. The vaccinia virus A41 protein is an immunomodulatory protein with amino acid sequence similarity to the 35-kDa chemokine binding protein, but the host immune molecules targeted by A41 have not been identified. We report here that the vaccinia virus A41 ortholog encoded by ectromelia virus, a poxvirus pathogen of mice, named E163 in the ectromelia virus Naval strain, is a secreted 31-kDa glycoprotein that selectively binds a limited number of CC and CXC chemokines with high affinity. A detailed characterization of the interaction of ectromelia virus E163 with mutant forms of the chemokines CXCL10 and CXCL12α indicated that E163 binds to the glycosaminoglycan binding site of the chemokines. This suggests that E163 inhibits the interaction of chemokines with glycosaminoglycans and provides a mechanism by which E163 prevents chemokine-induced leukocyte migration to the sites of infection. In addition to interacting with chemokines, E163 can interact with high affinity with glycosaminoglycan molecules, enabling E163 to attach to cell surfaces and to remain in the vicinity of the sites of viral infection. These findings identify E163 as a new chemokine binding protein in poxviruses and provide a molecular mechanism for the immunomodulatory activity previously reported for the vaccinia virus A41 ortholog. The results reported here also suggest that the cell surface and extracellular matrix are important targeting sites for secreted poxvirus immune modulators.
Vaccinia virus (VACV), a member of the Poxviridae family of large double-stranded DNA viruses, is being used as a smallpox vaccine as well as an expression vector for immunization against other infectious diseases and cancer. The host range of wild type VACV is very broad among mammalian cells. C7L is a host range gene identified in VACV and is well conserved in mammalian poxviruses except for parapoxviruses and molluscum contagiosum virus. The molecular mechanisms by which the C7L gene exerts host range function are not well understood. The C7L protein does not have any known conserved domains or show sequence similarity to cellular proteins or viral proteins other than the C7L homologues in mammalian poxviruses. We generated recombinant vaccinia viruses carrying deletion mutants of the C7L gene using NYVAC as a parental strain and found that the N-terminus is essential for host range function of C7L, which is consistent with a previous report that showed homology among C7L homologues are greater near the N-terminus than the C-terminus.
vaccinia virus; host range gene; C7L; poxvirus; immunomodulatory gene
Vaccinia virus (VACV) C7L is a host-range gene that regulates cellular tropism of VACV. Distantly related C7L homologues are encoded by nearly all mammalian poxviruses, but whether they are host-range genes functioning similar to VACV C7L has not been determined. Here, we used VACV as a model system to analyze five different C7L homologues from diverse mammalian poxviruses for their abilities to regulate poxvirus cellular tropism. Three C7L homologues (myxoma virus M63R, M64R and cowpox virus 020), when expressed with an epitope tag and from a VACV mutant lacking the host-range genes K1L and C7L (vK1L−C7L−), failed to support productive viral replication in human and murine cells. In nonpermissive cells, these viruses did not synthesize viral late proteins, expressed a reduced level of the early protein E3L, and were defective at suppressing cellular PKR activation. In contrast, two other C7L homologues, myxoma virus (MYXV) M62R and Yaba-like disease virus (YLDV) 67R, when expressed with an epitope tag and from vK1L−C7L−, supported normal viral replication in human and murine cells and restored the ability of the virus to suppress PKR activation. Furthermore, M62R rescued the defect of vK1L−C7L− at replicating and disseminating in mice following intranasal inoculation. These results show that MYXV M62R and YLDV 67R function equivalently to C7L at supporting VACV replication in mammalian hosts and suggest that a C7L-like host-range gene is essential for the replication of many mammalian poxviruses in mammalian hosts.
poxvirus; vaccinia virus; myxoma virus; C7L; host-range; PKR
Poxviruses encode a repertoire of immunomodulatory proteins to thwart the host immune system. One among this array is a homolog of the host complement regulatory proteins that is conserved in various poxviruses including vaccinia (VACV) and variola. The vaccinia virus complement control protein (VCP), which inhibits complement by decaying the classical pathway C3-convertase (decay-accelerating activity), and by supporting inactivation of C3b and C4b by serine protease factor I (cofactor activity), was shown to play a role in viral pathogenesis. However, the role its individual complement regulatory activities impart in pathogenesis, have not yet been elucidated. Here, we have generated monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that block the VCP functions and utilized them to evaluate the relative contribution of complement regulatory activities of VCP in viral pathogenesis by employing a rabbit intradermal model for VACV infection. Targeting VCP by mAbs that inhibited the decay-accelerating activity as well as cofactor activity of VCP or primarily the cofactor activity of VCP, by injecting them at the site of infection, significantly reduced VACV lesion size. This reduction however was not pronounced when VCP was targeted by a mAb that inhibited only the decay-accelerating activity. Further, the reduction in lesion size by mAbs was reversed when host complement was depleted by injecting cobra venom factor. Thus, our results suggest that targeting VCP by antibodies reduces VACV pathogenicity and that principally the cofactor activity of VCP appears to contribute to the virulence.
Smallpox vaccine; Vaccinia virus; VCP; Complement; Immune evasion
Viruses must be able to resist host innate responses, especially the type I interferon (IFN) response. They do so by preventing the induction or activity of IFN and/or by resisting the antiviral effectors that it induces. Poxviruses are no exception, with many mechanisms identified whereby mammalian poxviruses, notably, vaccinia virus (VACV), but also cowpox and myxoma viruses, are able to evade host IFN responses. Similar mechanisms have not been described for avian poxviruses (avipoxviruses). Restricted for permissive replication to avian hosts, they have received less attention; moreover, the avian host responses are less well characterized. We show that the prototypic avipoxvirus, fowlpox virus (FWPV), is highly resistant to the antiviral effects of avian IFN. A gain-of-function genetic screen identified fpv014 to contribute to increased resistance to exogenous recombinant chicken alpha IFN (ChIFN1). fpv014 is a member of the large family of poxvirus (especially avipoxvirus) genes that encode proteins containing N-terminal ankyrin repeats (ANKs) and C-terminal F-box-like motifs. By binding the Skp1/cullin-1 complex, the F box in such proteins appears to target ligands bound by the ANKs for ubiquitination. Mass spectrometry and immunoblotting demonstrated that tandem affinity-purified, tagged fpv014 was complexed with chicken cullin-1 and Skp1. Prior infection with an fpv014-knockout mutant of FWPV still blocked transfected poly(I·C)-mediated induction of the beta IFN (ChIFN2) promoter as effectively as parental FWPV, but the mutant was more sensitive to exogenous ChIFN1. Therefore, unlike the related protein fpv012, fpv014 does not contribute to the FWPV block to induction of ChIFN2 but does confer resistance to an established antiviral state.
Sin resolvase is a site-specific serine recombinase that is normally controlled by a complex regulatory mechanism. A single mutation, Q115R, allows the enzyme to bypass the entire regulatory apparatus, such that no accessory proteins or DNA sites are required. Here we present a 1.86Å crystal structure of the Sin Q115R catalytic domain, in a tetrameric arrangement stabilized by an interaction between Arg115 residues on neighboring subunits. The subunits have undergone significant conformational changes from the inactive dimeric state previously reported. The structure provides a new high-resolution view of a serine recombinase active site that is apparently fully assembled, suggesting roles for the conserved active site residues. The structure also suggests how the dimer-tetramer transition is coupled to assembly of the active site. The tetramer is captured in a different rotational substate than that seen in previous hyperactive serine recombinase structures, and unbroken crossover site DNA can be readily modeled into its active sites.
serine recombinase; resolvase; site-specific recombination; DNA binding protein; crystal structure
Low levels of uracil in DNA result from misincorporation of dUMP or cytosine deamination. Vaccinia virus (VACV), the prototype poxvirus, encodes two enzymes that can potentially reduce the amount of uracil in DNA. Deoxyuridine triphosphatase (dUTPase) hydrolyzes dUTP, generating dUMP for biosynthesis of thymidine nucleotides while decreasing the availability of dUTP for misincorporation; uracil DNA glycosylase (UNG) cleaves uracil N-glycosylic bonds in DNA initiating base excision repair. Studies with actively dividing cells showed that the VACV UNG protein is required for DNA replication but the UNG catalytic site is not, whereas the dUTPase gene can be deleted without impairing virus replication. Recombinant VACV with an UNG catalytic site mutation was attenuated in vivo, while a dUTPase deletion mutant was not. However, the importance of the two enzymes for replication in quiescent cells, their possible synergy and roles in virulence have not been fully assessed.
VACV mutants lacking the gene encoding dUTPase or with catalytic site mutations in UNG and double UNG/dUTPase mutants were constructed. Replication of UNG and UNG/dUTPase mutants were slightly reduced compared to wild type or the dUTPase mutant in actively dividing cells. Viral DNA replication was reduced about one-third under these conditions. After high multiplicity infection of quiescent fibroblasts, yields of wild type and mutant viruses were decreased by 2-logs with relative differences similar to those observed in active fibroblasts. However, under low multiplicity multi-step growth conditions in quiescent fibroblasts, replication of the dUTPase/UNG mutant was delayed and 5-fold lower than that of either single mutant or parental virus. This difference was exacerbated by 1-day serial passages on quiescent fibroblasts, resulting in 2- to 3-logs lower titer of the double mutant compared to the parental and single mutant viruses. Each mutant was more attenuated than a revertant virus upon intranasal infection of mice.
VACV UNG and dUTPase activities are more important for replication in quiescent cells, which have low levels of endogenous UNG and dUTPase, than in more metabolically active cells and the loss of both is more detrimental than either alone. Both UNG and dUTPase activities are required for full virulence in mice.
Despite the fact that smallpox eradication was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1980, other poxviruses have emerged and re-emerged, with significant public health and economic impacts. Vaccinia virus (VACV), a poxvirus used during the WHO smallpox vaccination campaign, has been involved in zoonotic infections in Brazilian rural areas (Bovine Vaccinia outbreaks – BV), affecting dairy cattle and milkers. Little is known about VACV's natural hosts and its epidemiological and ecological characteristics. Although VACV was isolated and/or serologically detected in Brazilian wild animals, the link between wildlife and farms has not yet been elucidated.
In this study, we describe for the first time, to our knowledge, the isolation of a VACV (Mariana virus - MARV) from a mouse during a BV outbreak. Genetic data, in association with biological assays, showed that this isolate was the same etiological agent causing exanthematic lesions observed in the cattle and human inhabitants of a particular BV-affected area. Phylogenetic analysis grouped MARV with other VACV isolated during BV outbreaks.
These data provide new biological and epidemiological information on VACV and lead to an interesting question: could peridomestic rodents be the link between wildlife and BV outbreaks?
Genetic and biochemical studies have provided evidence for an entry/fusion complex (EFC) comprised of at least eight viral proteins (A16, A21, A28, G3, G9, H2, J5, and L5) that together with an associated protein (F9) participates in entry of vaccinia virus (VACV) into cells. The genes encoding these proteins are conserved in all poxviruses, are expressed late in infection, and are components of the mature virion membrane but are not required for viral morphogenesis. In addition, all but one component has intramolecular disulfides that are formed by the poxvirus cytoplasmic redox system. The L1 protein has each of the characteristics enumerated above except that it has been reported to be essential for virus assembly. To further investigate the role of L1, we constructed a recombinant VACV (vL1Ri) that inducibly expresses L1. In the absence of inducer, L1 synthesis was repressed and vL1Ri was unable to form plaques or produce infectious progeny. Unexpectedly, assembly and morphogenesis appeared normal and the noninfectious virus particles were indistinguishable from wild-type VACV as determined by transmission electron microscopy and analysis of the component polypeptides. Notably, the L1-deficient virions were able to attach to cells but the cores failed to penetrate into the cytoplasm. In addition, cells infected with vL1Ri in the absence of inducer did not form syncytia following brief low-pH treatment even though extracellular virus was produced. Coimmunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated that L1 interacted with the EFC and indirectly with F9, suggesting that L1 is an additional component of the viral entry apparatus.
Here, we present the genome sequence, with analysis, of a poxvirus infecting Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) (crocodilepox virus; CRV). The genome is 190,054 bp (62% G+C) and predicted to contain 173 genes encoding proteins of 53 to 1,941 amino acids. The central genomic region contains genes conserved and generally colinear with those of other chordopoxviruses (ChPVs). CRV is distinct, as the terminal 33-kbp (left) and 13-kbp (right) genomic regions are largely CRV specific, containing 48 unique genes which lack similarity to other poxvirus genes. Notably, CRV also contains 14 unique genes which disrupt ChPV gene colinearity within the central genomic region, including 7 genes encoding GyrB-like ATPase domains similar to those in cellular type IIA DNA topoisomerases, suggestive of novel ATP-dependent functions. The presence of 10 CRV proteins with similarity to components of cellular multisubunit E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase complexes, including 9 proteins containing F-box motifs and F-box-associated regions and a homologue of cellular anaphase-promoting complex subunit 11 (Apc11), suggests that modification of host ubiquitination pathways may be significant for CRV-host cell interaction. CRV encodes a novel complement of proteins potentially involved in DNA replication, including a NAD+-dependent DNA ligase and a protein with similarity to both vaccinia virus F16L and prokaryotic serine site-specific resolvase-invertases. CRV lacks genes encoding proteins for nucleotide metabolism. CRV shares notable genomic similarities with molluscum contagiosum virus, including genes found only in these two viruses. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that CRV is quite distinct from other ChPVs, representing a new genus within the subfamily Chordopoxvirinae, and it lacks recognizable homologues of most ChPV genes involved in virulence and host range, including those involving interferon response, intracellular signaling, and host immune response modulation. These data reveal the unique nature of CRV and suggest mechanisms of virus-reptile host interaction.
Piv, a unique prokaryotic site-specific DNA invertase, is related to transposases of the insertion elements from the IS110/IS492 family and shows no similarity to the site-specific recombinases of the tyrosine- or serine-recombinase families. Piv tertiary structure is predicted to include the RNase H-like fold that typically encompasses the catalytic site of the recombinases or nucleases of the retroviral integrase superfamily, including transposases and RuvC-like Holliday junction resolvases. Analogous to the DDE and DEDD catalytic motifs of transposases and RuvC, respectively, four Piv acidic residues D9, E59, D101, and D104 appear to be positioned appropriately within the RNase H fold to coordinate two divalent metal cations. This suggests mechanistic similarity between site-specific inversion mediated by Piv and transposition or endonucleolytic reactions catalyzed by enzymes of the retroviral integrase superfamily. The role of the DEDD motif in Piv catalytic activity was addressed using Piv variants that are substituted individually or multiply at these acidic residues and assaying for in vivo inversion, intermolecular recombination, and DNA binding activities. The results indicate that all four residues of the DEDD motif are required for Piv catalytic activity. The DEDD residues are not essential for inv recombination site recognition and binding, but this acidic tetrad does appear to contribute to the stability of Piv-inv interactions. On the basis of these results, a working model for Piv-mediated inversion that includes resolution of a Holliday junction is presented.
Myxoma (MYXV) and vaccinia virus (VACV) have recently emerged as potential oncolytic agents that can infect and kill different human cancer cells. Although both are structurally similar, it is unknown whether the pathway(s) used by these poxviruses to enter and cause oncolysis in cancer cells are mechanistically similar. Here, we compared the entry of MYXV and VACV-WR into various human cancer cells and observed significant differences: 1- Low pH treatment accelerates fusion-mediated entry of VACV but not MYXV, 2- The tyrosine kinase inhibitor genistein inhibits entry of VACV, but not MYXV, 3- Knockdown of PAK1 revealed that it is required for a late stage downstream of MYXV entry into cancer cells, whereas PAK1 is required for VACV entry into the same target cells. These results suggest that VACV and MYXV exploit different mechanisms to enter into human cancer cells, thus providing some rationale for their divergent cancer cell tropisms.
Myxoma; Vaccinia; Entry-fusion complex; Endocytosis; Macropinocytosis; PAK1; Genistein; Tyrosine kinase
Mammalian poxviruses, including vaccinia virus (VACV), have evolved multiple mechanisms to evade the host type I interferon (IFN) responses at different levels, with viral proteins targeting IFN induction, signaling, and antiviral effector functions. Avian poxviruses (avipoxviruses), which have been developed as recombinant vaccine vectors for permissive (i.e., poultry) and nonpermissive (i.e., mammals, including humans) species, encode no obvious equivalents of any of these proteins. We show that fowlpox virus (FWPV) fails to induce chicken beta IFN (ChIFN2) and is able to block its induction by transfected poly(I·C), an analog of cytoplasmic double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). A broad-scale loss-of-function genetic screen was used to find FWPV-encoded modulators of poly(I·C)-mediated ChIFN2 induction. It identified fpv012, a member of a family of poxvirus genes highly expanded in the avipoxviruses (31 in FWPV; 51 in canarypox virus [CNPV], representing 15% of the total gene complement), encoding proteins containing N-terminal ankyrin repeats (ANKs) and C-terminal F-box-like motifs. Under ectopic expression, the first ANK of fpv012 is dispensable for inhibitory activity and the CNPV ortholog is also able to inhibit induction of ChIFN2. FWPV defective in fpv012 replicates well in culture and barely induces ChIFN2 during infection, suggesting that other factors are involved in blocking IFN induction and resisting the antiviral effectors. Nevertheless, unlike parental and revertant viruses, the mutants induce moderate levels of expression of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), suggesting either that there is sufficient ChIFN2 expression to partially induce the ISGs or the involvement of alternative, IFN-independent pathways that are also normally blocked by fpv012.
The RAG encoded proteins, RAG-1 and RAG-2 regulate site-specific recombination events in somatic immune B- and T-lymphocytes to generate the acquired immune repertoire. Catalytic activities of the RAG proteins are related to the recombinase functions of a pre-existing mobile DNA element in the DDE recombinase/RNAse H family, sometimes termed the “RAG transposon”.
Novel to this work is the suggestion that the DDE recombinase responsible for the origins of acquired immunity was encoded by a primordial herpes virus, rather than a “RAG transposon.” A subsequent “arms race” between immunity to herpes infection and the immune system obscured primary amino acid similarities between herpes and immune system proteins but preserved regulatory, structural and functional similarities between the respective recombinase proteins. In support of this hypothesis, evidence is reviewed from previous published data that a modern herpes virus protein family with properties of a viral recombinase is co-regulated with both RAG-1 and RAG-2 by closely linked cis-acting co-regulatory sequences. Structural and functional similarity is also reviewed between the putative herpes recombinase and both DDE site of the RAG-1 protein and another DDE/RNAse H family nuclease, the Argonaute protein component of RISC (RNA induced silencing complex).
A “co-regulatory” model of the origins of V(D)J recombination and the acquired immune system can account for the observed linked genomic structure of RAG-1 and RAG-2 in non-vertebrate organisms such as the sea urchin that lack an acquired immune system and V(D)J recombination. Initially the regulated expression of a viral recombinase in immune cells may have been positively selected by its ability to stimulate innate immunity to herpes virus infection rather than V(D)J recombination Unlike the “RAG-transposon” hypothesis, the proposed model can be readily tested by comparative functional analysis of herpes virus replication and V(D)J recombination.
Ribonucleotide reductases (RRs) are evolutionarily-conserved enzymes that catalyze the rate-limiting step during dNTP synthesis in mammals. RR consists of both large (R1) and small (R2) subunits, which are both required for catalysis by the R12R22 heterotetrameric complex. Poxviruses also encode RR proteins, but while the Orthopoxviruses infecting humans [e.g. vaccinia (VACV), variola, cowpox, and monkeypox viruses] encode both R1 and R2 subunits, the vast majority of Chordopoxviruses encode only R2 subunits. Using plaque morphology, growth curve, and mouse model studies, we investigated the requirement of VACV R1 (I4) and R2 (F4) subunits for replication and pathogenesis using a panel of mutant viruses in which one or more viral RR genes had been inactivated. Surprisingly, VACV F4, but not I4, was required for efficient replication in culture and virulence in mice. The growth defects of VACV strains lacking F4 could be complemented by genes encoding other Chordopoxvirus R2 subunits, suggesting conservation of function between poxvirus R2 proteins. Expression of F4 proteins encoding a point mutation predicted to inactivate RR activity but still allow for interaction with R1 subunits, caused a dominant negative phenotype in growth experiments in the presence or absence of I4. Co-immunoprecipitation studies showed that F4 (as well as other Chordopoxvirus R2 subunits) form hybrid complexes with cellular R1 subunits. Mutant F4 proteins that are unable to interact with host R1 subunits failed to rescue the replication defect of strains lacking F4, suggesting that F4-host R1 complex formation is critical for VACV replication. Our results suggest that poxvirus R2 subunits form functional complexes with host R1 subunits to provide sufficient dNTPs for viral replication. Our results also suggest that R2-deficient poxviruses may be selective oncolytic agents and our bioinformatic analyses provide insights into how poxvirus nucleotide metabolism proteins may have influenced the base composition of these pathogens.
Efficient genome replication is central to the virulence of all DNA viruses, including poxviruses. To ensure replication efficiency, many of the more virulent poxviruses encode their own nucleotide metabolism machinery, including ribonucleotide reductase (RR) enzymes, which act to provide ample DNA precursors for replication. RR enzymes require both large (R1) and small (R2) subunit proteins for activity. Curiously, some poxviruses only encode R2 subunits. Other poxviruses, such as the smallpox vaccine strain, vaccinia virus (VACV), encode both R1 and R2 subunits. We report here that the R2, but not the R1, subunit of VACV RR is required for efficient replication and virulence. We also provide evidence that several poxvirus R2 proteins form novel complexes with host R1 subunits and this interaction is required for efficient VACV replication in primate cells. Our study explains why some poxviruses only encode R2 subunits and identifies a role for these proteins in poxvirus pathogenesis. Furthermore, we provide evidence that mutant poxviruses unable to generate R2 proteins may become entirely dependent upon host RR activity. This may restrict their replication to cells that over-express RR proteins such as cancer cells, making them potential therapeutics for human malignancies.
The morphogenesis of poxviruses such as vaccinia virus (VACV) sees the virion shape mature from spherical to brick-shaped. Trimeric capsomers of the VACV D13 protein form a transitory, stabilizing lattice on the surface of the initial spherical immature virus particle. The crystal structure of D13 reveals that this major scaffolding protein comprises a double β barrel “jelly-roll” subunit arranged as pseudo-hexagonal trimers. These structural features are characteristic of the major capsid proteins of a lineage of large icosahedral double-stranded DNA viruses including human adenovirus and the bacteriophages PRD1 and PM2. Structure-based phylogenetic analysis confirms that VACV belongs to this lineage, suggesting that (analogously to higher organism embryogenesis) early poxvirus morphogenesis reflects their evolution from a lineage of viruses sharing a common icosahedral ancestor.
► Poxvirus D13 acts as a scaffold for the morphogenesis of spherical immature virions ► D13 has a double “jelly-roll” structure, like other large DNA virus capsid proteins ► Structure-based phylogenetics places D13 into an icosahedral viral lineage ► Poxvirus morphogenesis reflects Vaccinia virus evolution from an icosahedral ancestor
For many viruses, one or two proteins allow cell attachment and entry, which occurs through the plasma membrane or following endocytosis at low pH. In contrast, vaccinia virus (VACV) enters cells by both neutral and low pH routes; four proteins mediate cell attachment and twelve that are associated in a membrane complex and conserved in all poxviruses are dedicated to entry. The aim of the present study was to determine the roles of cellular and viral proteins in initial stages of entry, specifically fusion of the membranes of the mature virion and cell. For analysis of the role of cellular components, we used well characterized inhibitors and measured binding of a recombinant VACV virion containing Gaussia luciferase fused to a core protein; viral and cellular membrane lipid mixing with a self-quenching fluorescent probe in the virion membrane; and core entry with a recombinant VACV expressing firefly luciferase and electron microscopy. We determined that inhibitors of tyrosine protein kinases, dynamin GTPase and actin dynamics had little effect on binding of virions to cells but impaired membrane fusion, whereas partial cholesterol depletion and inhibitors of endosomal acidification and membrane blebbing had a severe effect at the later stage of core entry. To determine the role of viral proteins, virions lacking individual membrane components were purified from cells infected with members of a panel of ten conditional-lethal inducible mutants. Each of the entry protein-deficient virions had severely reduced infectivity and except for A28, L1 and L5 greatly impaired membrane fusion. In addition, a potent neutralizing L1 monoclonal antibody blocked entry at a post-membrane lipid-mixing step. Taken together, these results suggested a 2-step entry model and implicated an unprecedented number of viral proteins and cellular components involved in signaling and actin rearrangement for initiation of virus-cell membrane fusion during poxvirus entry.
Poxviruses are large DNA viruses that cause diseases in humans and other animals. To initiate infection, the core of the large, membrane-enveloped particle must penetrate into the cytoplasm where replication occurs. For most enveloped viruses only one or two proteins are needed for attachment and penetration. However, at least sixteen poxvirus proteins are dedicated to entry: four for attachment and twelve for penetration. The latter proteins form the entry fusion complex (EFC) and are conserved in all poxviruses indicating that the entry mechanism has been retained since the origin of the family. The purpose of the present study was to determine the cellular processes and poxviral proteins needed for fusion of the viral and cellular membranes. We found that a variety of inhibitors that interfered with cell signaling and reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton prevented membrane fusion as determined by lipid mixing, whereas others targeted the subsequent stage in entry. In addition, seven viral protein components of the EFC were required for the initial membrane fusion step, whereas three were not. A neutralizing monoclonal antibody to one of the latter also did not interfere with membrane lipid mixing but still prevented core entry supporting a 2-step poxvirus entry model.
Eukaryotic DNA replication involves the synthesis of both a DNA leading and lagging strand, the latter requiring several additional proteins including flap endonuclease (FEN-1) and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) in order to remove RNA primers used in the synthesis of Okazaki fragments. Poxviruses are complex viruses (dsDNA genomes) that infect eukaryotes, but surprisingly little is known about the process of DNA replication. Given our previous results that the vaccinia virus (VACV) G5R protein may be structurally similar to a FEN-1-like protein and a recent finding that poxviruses encode a primase function, we undertook a series of in silico analyses to identify whether VACV also encodes a PCNA-like protein.
An InterProScan of all VACV proteins using the JIPS software package was used to identify any PCNA-like proteins. The VACV G8R protein was identified as the only vaccinia protein that contained a PCNA-like sliding clamp motif. The VACV G8R protein plays a role in poxvirus late transcription and is known to interact with several other poxvirus proteins including itself. The secondary and tertiary structure of the VACV G8R protein was predicted and compared to the secondary and tertiary structure of both human and yeast PCNA proteins, and a high degree of similarity between all three proteins was noted.
The structure of the VACV G8R protein is predicted to closely resemble the eukaryotic PCNA protein; it possesses several other features including a conserved ubiquitylation and SUMOylation site that suggest that, like its counterpart in T4 bacteriophage (gp45), it may function as a sliding clamp ushering transcription factors to RNA polymerase during late transcription.
Primary immunization of humans with smallpox vaccine (live vaccinia virus (VACV)) consistently elicits antibody responses to six VACV virion membrane proteins, including A13. However, whether anti-A13 antibody contributes to immune protection against orthopoxviruses was unknown. Here, we isolated a murine monoclonal antibody (mAb) against A13 from a mouse that had been infected with VACV. The anti-A13 mAb bound to recombinant A13 protein with an affinity of 3.4 nM and neutralized VACV mature virions. Passive immunization of mice with the anti-A13 mAb protected against intranasal VACV infection. The epitope of the anti-A13 mAb was mapped to a 10-amino acid sequence conserved in all orthopoxviruses, including viriola virus and monkeypox virus, suggesting that anti-A13 antibodies elicited by smallpox vaccine might contribute to immune protection against orthopoxviruses. In addition, our data demonstrates that anti-A13 mAbs are effective for treating orthopoxvirus infection.
Poxviruses encode a large variety of proteins that mimic, block or enhance host cell signaling pathways on their own benefit. It has been reported that mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are specifically upregulated during vaccinia virus (VACV) infection. Here, we have evaluated the role of the MAPK negative regulator dual specificity phosphatase 1 (DUSP1) in the infection of VACV. We demonstrated that DUSP1 expression is enhanced upon infection with the replicative WR virus and with the attenuated VACV viruses MVA and NYVAC. This upregulation is dependent on early viral gene expression. In the absence of DUSP1 in cultured cells, there is an increased activation of its molecular targets JNK and ERK and an enhanced WR replication. Moreover, DUSP1 knock-out (KO) mice are more susceptible to WR infection as a result of enhanced virus replication in the lungs. Significantly, MVA, which is known to produce non-permissive infections in most mammalian cell lines, is able to grow in DUSP1 KO immortalized murine embryo fibroblasts (MEFs). By confocal and electron microscopy assays, we showed that in the absence of DUSP1 MVA morphogenesis is similar as in permissive cell lines and demonstrated that DUSP1 is involved at the stage of transition between IVN and MV in VACV morphogenesis. In addition, we have observed that the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines at early times post-infection in KO mice infected with MVA and NYVAC is increased and that the adaptive immune response is enhanced in comparison with WT-infected mice. Altogether, these findings reveal that DUSP1 is involved in the replication and host range of VACV and in the regulation of host immune responses through the modulation of MAPKs. Thus, in this study we demonstrate that DUSP1 is actively involved in the antiviral host defense mechanism against a poxvirus infection.
Phosphorylation is a post-translational modification that is highly conserved throughout the animal kingdom. Viruses have evolved to acquire their own kinases and phosphatases and to be able to modulate host phosphorylation mechanisms on their benefit. DUSP1 is an early induced gene that belongs to the superfamily of Dual-specificity phosphatases and provides an essential negative feedback regulation of MAPKs. DUSP1 is involved in innate and adaptive immune responses against different bacteria and parasites infections. The use of Knock-out technology has allowed us to understand the role of DUSP1 in the context of VACV infection both in cultured cells and in the in vivo mouse model. Here, we have showed that DUSP1 expression is upregulated during VACV infection and that DUSP1 plays an important role in VACV replication. Interestingly, we have demonstrated that the VACV attenuated virus MVA is able to grow in immortalized murine embryo fibroblasts in the absence of DUSP1. In vivo results showed that VACV replication-competent WR pathogenesis is enhanced in the absence of DUSP1. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that DUSP1 is involved in the host innate and adaptive responses against VACV. Altogether, we have presented a novel role for DUSP1 in VACV replication and anti-VACV host immune response.
The site-specific recombinases Flp and R from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Zygosaccharomyces rouxii, respectively, are related proteins that belong to the yeast family of site-specific recombinases. They share approximately 30% amino acid matches and exhibit a common reaction mechanism that appears to be conserved within the larger integrase family of site-specific recombinases. Two regions of the proteins, designated box I and box II, also harbor a significantly high degree of homology at the nucleotide sequence level. We have analyzed the properties of Flp and R variants carrying point mutations within the box I segment in substrate-binding, DNA cleavage, and full-site and half-site strand transfer reactions. All mutations abolish or seriously diminish recombinase function either at the substrate-binding step or at the catalytic steps of strand cleavage or strand transfer. Of particular interest are mutations of Arg-191 of Flp and R, residues which correspond to one of the two invariant arginine residues of the integrase family. These variant proteins bind substrate with affinities comparable to those of the corresponding wild-type recombinases. Among the binding-competent variants, only Flp(R191K) is capable of efficient substrate cleavage in a full recombination target. However, this protein does not cleave a half recombination site and fails to complete strand exchange in a full site. Strikingly, the Arg-191 mutants of Flp and R can be rescued in half-site strand transfer reactions by a second point mutant of the corresponding recombinase that lacks its active-site tyrosine (Tyr-343). Similarly, Flp and R variants of Cys-189 and Flp variants at Asp-194 and Asp-199 can also be complemented by the corresponding Tyr-343-to-phenylalanine recombinase mutant.
Tyrosine recombinases mediate a wide range of important genetic rearrangement reactions. Models for tyrosine recombinases have been based largely on work done on the integrase of phage lambda and recombinases like Cre, Flp, and XerC/D. All of these recombinases share a common amino acid signature that is important for catalysis. Several conjugative transposons (CTns) encode recombinases that are also members of the tyrosine recombinase family, but the reaction that they catalyze differs in that recombination does not require homology in the attachment sites. In this study, we examine the role of the core-binding (CB) domain of the CTnDOT integrase (IntDOT) that is located adjacent to the catalytic domain of the protein. Since there is no crystal structure for any of the CTn integrases, we began with a predicted three-dimensional structure produced by homology-based modeling. Amino acid substitutions were made at positions predicted by the model to be close to the DNA. Mutant proteins were tested for the ability to mediate integration in vivo and for in vitro DNA-binding, cleavage, and ligation activities. We identified for the first time nonconserved amino acid residues in the CB domain that are important for catalytic activity. Mutant proteins with substitutions at three positions in the CB domain are defective for DNA cleavage but still proficient in ligation. The positions of the residues in the complex suggest that the mutant residues affect the positioning of the cleaved phosphodiester bond in the active site without disruption of the ligation step.