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1.  Vaccinia Virus–Encoded Ribonucleotide Reductase Subunits Are Differentially Required for Replication and Pathogenesis 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(7):e1000984.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC2900304  PMID: 20628573
2.  Involvement of the Cellular Phosphatase DUSP1 in Vaccinia Virus Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(11):e1003719.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3828168  PMID: 24244156
3.  Genome of Crocodilepox Virus 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(10):4978-4991.
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.
PMCID: PMC1472061  PMID: 16641289
4.  Vaccinia Virus G8R Protein: A Structural Ortholog of Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5479.
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.
PMCID: PMC2674943  PMID: 19421403
5.  A Homolog of the Vaccinia Virus D13L Rifampicin Resistance Gene is in the Entomopoxvirus of the Parasitic wasp, Diachasmimorpha longicaudata  
The parasitic wasp, Diachasmimorpha longicaudata (Ashmead) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), introduces an entomopoxvirus (DlEPV) into its Caribbean fruit fly host, Anastrepha suspensa. (Loew) (Diptera: Tephritidae), during oviposition. DlEPV has a 250–300 kb unipartite dsDNA genome, that replicates in the cytoplasm of the host's hemocytes, and inhibits the host's encapsulation response. The putative proteins encoded by several DlEPV genes are highly homologous with those of poxviruses, while others appear to be DlEPV specific. Here, a 2.34 kb sequence containing a 1.64 kb DlEPV open reading frame within a cloned 4.5 kb EcoR1 fragment (designated R1–1) is described from a DlEPV EcoRI genomic library. This open reading frame is a homolog of the vaccinia virus rifampicin resistance (rif) gene, D13L, and encodes a putative 546 amino acid protein. The DlEPV rif contains two EcoRV, two HindIII, one XbaI, and one DraII restriction sites, and upstream of the open reading frame the fragment also contains EcoRV, HindII, SpEI, and BsP106 sites. Early poxvirus transcription termination signals (TTTTTnT) occur 236 and 315 nucleotides upstream of the consensus poxvirus late translational start codon (TAAATG) and at 169 nucleotides downstream of the translational stop codon of the rif open reading frame. Southern blot hybridization of HindIII-, EcoRI-, and BamH1-restricted DlEPV genomic DNA probed with the labeled 4.5 kb insert confirmed the fidelity of the DNA and the expected number of fragments appropriate to the restriction endonucleases used. Pairwise comparisons between DlEPV amino acids and those of the Amsacta moorei, Heliothis armigera, and Melanoplus sanguinipes entomopoxviruses, revealed 46, 46, and 45 % similarity (identity + substitutions), respectively. Similar values (41–45%) were observed in comparisons with the chordopoxviruses. The mid portion of the DlEPV sequence contained two regions of highest conserved residues similar to those reported for H. armigera entomopoxvirus rifampicin resistance protein. Phylogenetic analysis of the amino acid sequences suggested that DlEPV arose from the same ancestral node as other entomopoxviruses but belongs to a separate clade from those of the grasshopper- infecting M. sanguinipes entomopoxvirus and from the Lepidoptera-infecting (Genus B or Betaentomopoxvirus) A. moorei entomopoxvirus and H. armigera entomopoxvirus. Interestingly, the DlEPV putative protein had only 3–26.4 % similarity with RIF-like homologs/orthologs found in other large DNA non-poxviruses, demonstrating its closer relationship to the Poxviridae. DlEPV remains an unassigned member of the Entomopoxvirinae ( until its relationship to other diptera-infecting (Gammaentomopoxvirus or Genus C) entomopoxviruses can be verified. The GenBank accession number for the nucleotide sequence data reported in this paper is EF541029.
PMCID: PMC3061580  PMID: 20345294
DlEPV rif gene; wasp virus; symbiotic entomopoxvirus
6.  Characterization of a Newly Identified 35-Amino-Acid Component of the Vaccinia Virus Entry/Fusion Complex Conserved in All Chordopoxviruses▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(24):12822-12832.
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.
PMCID: PMC2786860  PMID: 19812151
7.  A Mechanism for the Inhibition of DNA-PK-Mediated DNA Sensing by a Virus 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003649.
The innate immune system is critical in the response to infection by pathogens and it is activated by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) binding to pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). During viral infection, the direct recognition of the viral nucleic acids, such as the genomes of DNA viruses, is very important for activation of innate immunity. Recently, DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), a heterotrimeric complex consisting of the Ku70/Ku80 heterodimer and the catalytic subunit DNA-PKcs was identified as a cytoplasmic PRR for DNA that is important for the innate immune response to intracellular DNA and DNA virus infection. Here we show that vaccinia virus (VACV) has evolved to inhibit this function of DNA-PK by expression of a highly conserved protein called C16, which was known to contribute to virulence but by an unknown mechanism. Data presented show that C16 binds directly to the Ku heterodimer and thereby inhibits the innate immune response to DNA in fibroblasts, characterised by the decreased production of cytokines and chemokines. Mechanistically, C16 acts by blocking DNA-PK binding to DNA, which correlates with reduced DNA-PK-dependent DNA sensing. The C-terminal region of C16 is sufficient for binding Ku and this activity is conserved in the variola virus (VARV) orthologue of C16. In contrast, deletion of 5 amino acids in this domain is enough to knockout this function from the attenuated vaccine strain modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA). In vivo a VACV mutant lacking C16 induced higher levels of cytokines and chemokines early after infection compared to control viruses, confirming the role of this virulence factor in attenuating the innate immune response. Overall this study describes the inhibition of DNA-PK-dependent DNA sensing by a poxvirus protein, adding to the evidence that DNA-PK is a critical component of innate immunity to DNA viruses.
Author Summary
To mount an immune response to an invading bacterium or virus (pathogens), the host must detect foreign molecules from the pathogen. Pathogens have conserved features called pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) that are distinct from host cells and which are recognised by the host using specific sensors (called pattern recognition receptors, PRRs). One example of a PAMP is DNA in the cytoplasm. Cytoplasmic DNA activates the innate immune system, but the PRRs responsible remain incompletely understood. One such PRR, DNA-PK, was identified recently. Here we demonstrate that vaccinia virus (VACV), the vaccine used to eradicate smallpox, encodes a protein called C16 which binds to the DNA-PK complex and prevents it from sensing foreign DNA and activating the immune response. A VACV strain lacking C16 showed reduced virulence and, consistent with this, the host mounted a stronger innate immune response to infection. This illustrates the importance of DNA-PK as a sensor for foreign DNA, and increases understanding of the interaction between VACV and the host. It also illustrates how the study of virulence factors of pathogens can lead to the identification of novel components of the immune system.
PMCID: PMC3789764  PMID: 24098118
8.  Interactions of the Vaccinia Virus A19 Protein 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(19):10710-10720.
The A19 protein of vaccinia virus (VACV) is conserved among chordopoxviruses, expressed late in infection, packaged in the virus core, and required for a late step in morphogenesis. Multiple-sequence alignments of A19 homologs indicated conservation of a series of lysines and arginines, which could represent a nuclear localization or nucleic acid binding motif, and a pair of CXXC motifs that suggested a zinc finger or redox active sites. The importance of the CXXC motif was confirmed by cysteine-to-serine substitutions, which rendered the altered protein unable to trans-complement infectivity of a null mutant. Nevertheless, the cysteines were not required for function of the poxvirus-specific redox pathway. Epitope-tagged A19 proteins were detected in the nucleus and cytoplasm in both infected and uninfected cells, but this distribution was unaffected by alanine substitutions of the arginine residues, which only partially reduced the ability of the mutated protein to trans-complement infectivity. Viral proteins specifically associated with affinity-purified A19 were identified by mass spectrometry as components of the transcription complex, including RNA polymerase subunits, RAP94 (RNA polymerase-associated protein 94), early transcription factors, capping enzyme, and nucleoside triphosphate phosphohydrolase I, and two core proteins required for morphogenesis. Further studies suggested that the interaction of A19 with the RNA polymerase did not require RAP94 or other intermediate or late viral proteins but was reduced by mutation of cysteines in the putative zinc finger domain. Although A19 was not required for incorporation of the transcription complex in virus particles, the transcriptional activity of A19-deficient virus particles was severely reduced.
PMCID: PMC3807377  PMID: 23885084
9.  Inhibition of IκB Kinase by Vaccinia Virus Virulence Factor B14 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(2):e22.
The IκB kinase (IKK) complex is a key regulator of signal transduction pathways leading to the induction of NF-κB-dependent gene expression and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. It therefore represents a major target for the development of anti-inflammatory therapeutic drugs and may be targeted by pathogens seeking to diminish the host response to infection. Previously, the vaccinia virus (VACV) strain Western Reserve B14 protein was characterised as an intracellular virulence factor that alters the inflammatory response to infection by an unknown mechanism. Here we demonstrate that ectopic expression of B14 inhibited NF-κB activation in response to TNFα, IL-1β, poly(I:C), and PMA. In cells infected with VACV lacking gene B14R (vΔB14) there was a higher level of phosphorylated IκBα but a similar level of IκBα compared to cells infected with control viruses expressing B14, suggesting B14 affects IKK activity. Direct evidence for this was obtained by showing that B14 co-purified and co-precipitated with the endogenous IKK complex from human and mouse cells and inhibited IKK complex enzymatic activity. Notably, the interaction between B14 and the IKK complex required IKKβ but not IKKα, suggesting the interaction occurs via IKKβ. B14 inhibited NF-κB activation induced by overexpression of IKKα, IKKβ, and a constitutively active mutant of IKKα, S176/180E, but did not inhibit a comparable mutant of IKKβ, S177/181E. This suggested that phosphorylation of these serine residues in the activation loop of IKKβ is targeted by B14, and this was confirmed using Ab specific for phospho-IKKβ.
Author Summary
Vaccinia virus (VACV) is the live vaccine used to eradicate smallpox and is also the most intensively studied poxvirus. Like many poxviruses, VACV produces a wide variety of proteins that inhibit parts of the host response to infection. Consequently, the virus can escape destruction by the immune system and be passed on to additional hosts. Here we report a new VACV immune evasion mechanism mediated by protein B14, a protein that contributes to virus virulence. B14 functions by interacting with a cellular protein called IKKβ, which is critical for mounting an innate immune response to infection, and also plays important roles in cancer and cell death. B14 prevents IKKβ being activated and consequently the cellular signaling pathway leading to activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) is not induced. Without activation of NF-κB the host cell cannot produce other molecules that amplify the innate immune response to infection. This mechanism of action of B14 fits nicely with the observed increase in the host response to infection by a VACV strain lacking the B14R gene. Lastly, an increased understanding of how B14 inhibits IKKβ function may lead to development of novel drugs against this important cellular enzyme.
PMCID: PMC2233672  PMID: 18266467
10.  Genetic Screen of a Mutant Poxvirus Library Identifies an Ankyrin Repeat Protein Involved in Blocking Induction of Avian Type I Interferon 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(9):5041-5052.
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.
PMCID: PMC3624286  PMID: 23427153
11.  Poxvirus Orthologous Clusters: toward Defining the Minimum Essential Poxvirus Genome 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(13):7590-7600.
Increasingly complex bioinformatic analysis is necessitated by the plethora of sequence information currently available. A total of 21 poxvirus genomes have now been completely sequenced and annotated, and many more genomes will be available in the next few years. First, we describe the creation of a database of continuously corrected and updated genome sequences and an easy-to-use and extremely powerful suite of software tools for the analysis of genomes, genes, and proteins. These tools are available free to all researchers and, in most cases, alleviate the need for using multiple Internet sites for analysis. Further, we describe the use of these programs to identify conserved families of genes (poxvirus orthologous clusters) and have named the software suite POCs, which is available at Using POCs, we have identified a set of 49 absolutely conserved gene families—those which are conserved between the highly diverged families of insect-infecting entomopoxviruses and vertebrate-infecting chordopoxviruses. An additional set of 41 gene families conserved in chordopoxviruses was also identified. Thus, 90 genes are completely conserved in chordopoxviruses and comprise the minimum essential genome, and these will make excellent drug, antibody, vaccine, and detection targets. Finally, we describe the use of these tools to identify necessary annotation and sequencing updates in poxvirus genomes. For example, using POCs, we identified 19 genes that were widely conserved in poxviruses but missing from the vaccinia virus strain Tian Tan 1998 GenBank file. We have reannotated and resequenced fragments of this genome and verified that these genes are conserved in Tian Tan. The results for poxvirus genes and genomes are discussed in light of evolutionary processes.
PMCID: PMC164831  PMID: 12805459
12.  The Membrane Fusion Step of Vaccinia Virus Entry Is Cooperatively Mediated by Multiple Viral Proteins and Host Cell Components 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(12):e1002446.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3240603  PMID: 22194690
13.  Effects of vaccinia virus uracil DNA glycosylase catalytic site and deoxyuridine triphosphatase deletion mutations individually and together on replication in active and quiescent cells and pathogenesis in mice 
Virology Journal  2008;5:145.
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.
PMCID: PMC2630940  PMID: 19055736
14.  Primary Human Macrophages Serve as Vehicles for Vaccinia Virus Replication and Dissemination 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(12):6819-6831.
Human monocytic and professional antigen-presenting cells have been reported only to exhibit abortive infections with vaccinia virus (VACV). We found that monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs), including granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF)-polarized M1 and macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF)-polarized M2, but not human AB serum-derived cells, were permissive to VACV replication. The titers of infectious virions in both cell-free supernatants and cellular lysates of infected M1 and M2 markedly increased in a time-dependent manner. The majority of virions produced in permissive MDMs were extracellular enveloped virions (EEV), a secreted form of VACV associated with long-range virus dissemination, and were mainly found in the culture supernatant. Infected MDMs formed VACV factories, actin tails, virion-associated branching structures, and cell linkages, indicating that MDMs are able to initiate de novo synthesis of viral DNA and promote virus release. VACV replication was sensitive to inhibitors against the Akt and Erk1/2 pathways that can be activated by VACV infection and M-CSF stimulation. Classical activation of MDMs by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) plus gamma interferon (IFN-γ) stimulation caused no effect on VACV replication, while alternative activation of MDMs by interleukin-10 (IL-10) or LPS-plus-IL-1β treatment significantly decreased VACV production. The IL-10-mediated suppression of VACV replication was largely due to Stat3 activation, as a Stat3 inhibitor restored virus production to levels observed without IL-10 stimulation. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that primary human macrophages are permissive to VACV replication. After infection, these cells produce EEV for long-range dissemination and also form structures associated with virions which may contribute to cell-cell spread.
IMPORTANCE Our results provide critical information to the burgeoning fields of cancer-killing (oncolytic) virus therapy with vaccinia virus (VACV). One type of macrophage (M2) is considered a common presence in tumors and is associated with poor prognosis. Our results demonstrate a preference for VACV replication in M2 macrophages and could assist in designing treatments and engineering poxviruses with special considerations for their effect on M2 macrophage-containing tumors. Additionally, this work highlights the importance of macrophages in the field of vaccine development using poxviruses as vectors. The understanding of the dynamics of poxvirus-infected foci is central in understanding the effectiveness of the immune response to poxvirus-mediated vaccine vectors. Monocytic cells have been found to be an important part of VACV skin lesions in mice in controlling the infection as well as mediating virus transport out of infected foci.
PMCID: PMC4054380  PMID: 24696488
15.  C7L Family of Poxvirus Host Range Genes Inhibits Antiviral Activities Induced by Type I Interferons and Interferon Regulatory Factor 1 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(8):4538-4547.
Vaccinia virus (VACV) K1L and C7L function equivalently in many mammalian cells to support VACV replication and antagonize antiviral activities induced by type I interferons (IFNs). While K1L is limited to orthopoxviruses, genes that are homologous to C7L are found in diverse mammalian poxviruses. In this study, we showed that the C7L homologues from sheeppox virus and swinepox virus could rescue the replication defect of a VACV mutant deleted of both K1L and C7L (vK1L−C7L−). Interestingly, the sheeppox virus C7L homologue could rescue the replication of vK1L−C7L− in human HeLa cells but not in murine 3T3 and LA-4 cells, in contrast to all other C7L homologues. Replacing amino acids 134 and 135 of the sheeppox virus C7L homologue, however, made it functional in the two murine cell lines, suggesting that these two residues are critical for antagonizing a putative host restriction factor which has some subtle sequence variation in human and murine cells. Furthermore, the C7L family of host range genes from diverse mammalian poxviruses were all capable of antagonizing type I IFN-induced antiviral activities against VACV. Screening of a library of more than 350 IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) identified interferon-regulated factor 1 (IRF1) as an inhibitor of vK1L−C7L− but not wild-type VACV. Expression of either K1L or C7L, however, rendered vK1L−C7L− resistant to IRF1-induced antiviral activities. Altogether, our data show that K1L and C7L antagonize IRF1-induced antiviral activities and that the host modulation function of C7L is evolutionally conserved in all poxviruses that can readily replicate in tissue-cultured mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC3318637  PMID: 22345458
16.  Disabling complement regulatory activities of vaccinia virus complement control protein reduces vaccinia virus pathogenicity 
Vaccine  2011;29(43):7435-7443.
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.
PMCID: PMC3195257  PMID: 21803094
Smallpox vaccine; Vaccinia virus; VCP; Complement; Immune evasion
17.  Multiple interfaces between a serine recombinase and an enhancer control site-specific DNA inversion 
eLife  2013;2:e01211.
Serine recombinases are often tightly controlled by elaborate, topologically-defined, nucleoprotein complexes. Hin is a member of the DNA invertase subclass of serine recombinases that are regulated by a remote recombinational enhancer element containing two binding sites for the protein Fis. Two Hin dimers bound to specific recombination sites associate with the Fis-bound enhancer by DNA looping where they are remodeled into a synaptic tetramer competent for DNA chemistry and exchange. Here we show that the flexible beta-hairpin arms of the Fis dimers contact the DNA binding domain of one subunit of each Hin dimer. These contacts sandwich the Hin dimers to promote remodeling into the tetramer. A basic region on the Hin catalytic domain then contacts enhancer DNA to complete assembly of the active Hin tetramer. Our results reveal how the enhancer generates the recombination complex that specifies DNA inversion and regulates DNA exchange by the subunit rotation mechanism.
eLife digest
Many processes in biology rely on enzymes that break both the strands in a DNA molecule, then rearrange the strands, and finally join them back together in a new configuration. These recombination reactions can, for example, change the positions of genetic elements such as enhancers and promoters within the DNA molecule and, therefore, influence how a given gene is expressed as a protein. Cells need to be able to control recombination reactions because they can lead to leukemia and lymphomas if they go wrong.
The enzymes that catalyze these recombination reactions are called recombinases. One type of recombinase binds to specific sequences of DNA bases and uses an amino acid in the enzyme–usually serine or tyrosine–to break and rejoin the DNA strands. Recombination reactions require the assembly of complexes containing many proteins bound to DNA. Tyrosine recombinases form relatively simple protein-DNA complexes, and these have been studied in detail. Serine recombinases, on the other hand, form more elaborate protein-DNA complexes, and much less is known about these.
Now McLean et al. have unraveled the mechanism that a serine recombinase called Hin uses to reverse the direction of a stretch of chromosomal DNA in the bacteria Salmonella enterica. Inverting this stretch of DNA–which contains about 1000 base pairs–changes the position of a gene promoter that is responsible for the production of flagellin, which is the protein that enables the bacterium to move. This is one of the tricks that Salmonella uses to evade the immune system of its host.
Previous research has established that four Hin subunits and two copies of a protein called Fis are needed to invert this stretch of DNA: two Hin subunits bind to each of the two hix recombination sites, and the Fis proteins (which are dimers) bind to each end of an enhancer that is located between the hix sites. A protein called HU then causes the DNA to bend and form a loop, and the four Hin subunits and the two Fis dimers all come together at the enhancer to form a structure called the invertasome where the recombination reaction occurs. All four DNA strands at the crossover point are broken as a result of a near simultaneous attack by the catalytic serine amino acids in the Hin subunits. One pair of Hin subunits–and the two DNA strands attached to them–then rotate by 180 degrees around the other pair of Hin subunits. This means that the stretch of DNA between the hix sites is inverted when the DNA strands are rejoined at the end of the reaction.
Enhancers often regulate transcription and other reactions from a distance. McLean et al. reveal how an enhancer of a DNA recombination reaction works. The pairs of Hin subunits that initially bind to the DNA are not catalytically active, but when they are brought together by the enhancer and form a tetramer, they become active. Two of the Hin subunits are clamped onto the enhancer by the Fis dimers and by directly interacting with the enhancer DNA, but the other two (and the DNA strands attached to them) are free to rotate within the tetramer. In the Salmonella chromosome the enhancer is located close to one of the hix sites (∼100 base pairs away from it), so the length of the DNA between the enhancer and hix site physically limits the number of Hin subunit rotations to just one.
PMCID: PMC3798978  PMID: 24151546
Salmonella enterica; site-specific DNA recombination; serine recombinase; recombinational enhancer; synaptic complex; DNA strand exchange; E. coli
18.  Structure and Function of A41, a Vaccinia Virus Chemokine Binding Protein 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(1):e5.
The vaccinia virus (VACV) A41L gene encodes a secreted 30 kDa glycoprotein that is nonessential for virus replication but affects the host response to infection. The A41 protein shares sequence similarity with another VACV protein that binds CC chemokines (called vCKBP, or viral CC chemokine inhibitor, vCCI), and strains of VACV lacking the A41L gene induced stronger CD8+ T-cell responses than control viruses expressing A41. Using surface plasmon resonance, we screened 39 human and murine chemokines and identified CCL21, CCL25, CCL26 and CCL28 as A41 ligands, with Kds of between 8 nM and 118 nM. Nonetheless, A41 was ineffective at inhibiting chemotaxis induced by these chemokines, indicating it did not block the interaction of these chemokines with their receptors. However the interaction of A41 and chemokines was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner by heparin, suggesting that A41 and heparin bind to overlapping sites on these chemokines. To better understand the mechanism of action of A41 its crystal structure was solved to 1.9 Å resolution. The protein has a globular β sandwich structure similar to that of the poxvirus vCCI family of proteins, but there are notable structural differences, particularly in surface loops and electrostatic charge distribution. Structural modelling suggests that the binding paradigm as defined for the vCCI–chemokine interaction is likely to be conserved between A41 and its chemokine partners. Additionally, sequence analysis of chemokines binding to A41 identified a signature for A41 binding. The biological and structural data suggest that A41 functions by forming moderately strong (nM) interactions with certain chemokines, sufficient to interfere with chemokine-glycosaminoglycan interactions at the cell surface (μM–nM) and thereby to destroy the chemokine concentration gradient, but not strong enough to disrupt the (pM) chemokine–chemokine receptor interactions.
Author Summary
As part of the innate immune response (for example to virus infection), the body produces proteins called chemokines, which act by directing white blood cells (leukocytes) to the areas of infection and inflammation. Viruses have evolved mechanisms to fight this immune response. Indeed, so important is this need to protect themselves from the immune system that some viruses, such as poxviruses, devote up to half their genetic information to this battle. We have studied a protein called A41, one component of the response of vaccinia virus (the vaccine used to eradicate smallpox) to the immune system and shown that it interferes with the function of a group of chemokines. These chemokines function by forming concentration gradients along which the white blood cells migrate, and A41 sequesters the chemokines, thereby preventing formation of the gradient. Interestingly, we show also that A41 is very similar in structure to another group of proteins, called vCCIs, that bind chemokines more tightly, blocking their attachment to white blood cells, suggesting that both mechanisms are important for virus virulence.
PMCID: PMC2211551  PMID: 18208323
19.  Sequence-Divergent Chordopoxvirus Homologs of the O3 Protein Maintain Functional Interactions with Components of the Vaccinia Virus Entry-Fusion Complex 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(3):1696-1705.
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.
PMCID: PMC3264392  PMID: 22114343
20.  Identification from Diverse Mammalian Poxviruses of Host-range Regulatory Genes Functioning Equivalently to Vaccinia Virus C7L 
Virology  2007;372(2):372-383.
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.
PMCID: PMC2276162  PMID: 18054061
poxvirus; vaccinia virus; myxoma virus; C7L; host-range; PKR
21.  An Ectromelia Virus Protein That Interacts with Chemokines through Their Glycosaminoglycan Binding Domain▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;82(2):917-926.
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.
PMCID: PMC2224573  PMID: 18003726
22.  Vaccinia Virus Requires Glutamine but Not Glucose for Efficient Replication 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(8):4366-4374.
Viruses require host cell metabolism to provide the necessary energy and biosynthetic precursors for successful viral replication. Vaccinia virus (VACV) is a member of the Poxviridae family, and its use as a vaccine enabled the eradication of variola virus, the etiologic agent of smallpox. A global metabolic screen of VACV-infected primary human foreskin fibroblasts suggested that glutamine metabolism is altered during infection. Glutamine and glucose represent the two main carbon sources for mammalian cells. Depriving VACV-infected cells of exogenous glutamine led to a substantial decrease in infectious virus production, whereas starving infected cells of exogenous glucose had no significant impact on replication. Viral yield in glutamine-deprived cells or in cells treated with an inhibitor of glutaminolysis, the pathway of glutamine catabolism, could be rescued by the addition of multiple tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle intermediates. Thus, VACV infection induces a metabolic alteration to fully rely on glutamine to anaplerotically maintain the TCA cycle. VACV protein synthesis, but not viral transcription, was decreased in glutamine-deprived cells, which corresponded with a dramatic reduction in all VACV morphogenetic intermediates. This study reveals the unique carbon utilization program implemented during poxvirus infection and provides a potential metabolic pathway to target viral replication.
IMPORTANCE Viruses are dependent on the metabolic machinery of the host cell to supply the energy and molecular building blocks needed for critical processes including genome replication, viral protein synthesis, and membrane production. This study investigates how vaccinia virus (VACV) infection alters global cellular metabolism, providing the first metabolomic analysis for a member of the poxvirus family. Unlike most viruses examined to date, VACV does not activate glycolysis, and exogenous glucose is not required for maximal virus production. Instead, VACV requires exogenous glutamine for efficient replication, and inhibition of glutamine metabolism effectively blocks VACV protein synthesis. This study defines a major metabolic perturbation essential for the replication of a poxvirus and may lead to the discovery of novel antiviral therapies based on metabolic inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3993723  PMID: 24501408
23.  Genome Segregation and Packaging Machinery in Acanthamoeba polyphaga Mimivirus Is Reminiscent of Bacterial Apparatus 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(11):6069-6075.
Genome packaging is a critical step in the virion assembly process. The putative ATP-driven genome packaging motor of Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus (APMV) and other nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDVs) is a distant ortholog of prokaryotic chromosome segregation motors, such as FtsK and HerA, rather than other viral packaging motors, such as large terminase. Intriguingly, APMV also encodes other components, i.e., three putative serine recombinases and a putative type II topoisomerase, all of which are essential for chromosome segregation in prokaryotes. Based on our analyses of these components and taking the limited available literature into account, here we propose for the first time a model for genome segregation and packaging in APMV that can possibly be extended to NCLDV subfamilies, except perhaps Poxviridae and Ascoviridae. This model might represent a unique variation of the prokaryotic system acquired and contrived by the large DNA viruses of eukaryotes. It is also consistent with previous observations that unicellular eukaryotes, such as amoebae, are melting pots for the advent of chimeric organisms with novel mechanisms.
IMPORTANCE Extremely large viruses with DNA genomes infect a wide range of eukaryotes, from human beings to amoebae and from crocodiles to algae. These large DNA viruses, unlike their much smaller cousins, have the capability of making most of the protein components required for their multiplication. Once they infect the cell, these viruses set up viral replication centers, known as viral factories, to carry out their multiplication with very little help from the host. Our sequence analyses show that there is remarkable similarity between prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) and large DNA viruses, such as mimivirus, vaccinia virus, and pandoravirus, in the way that they process their newly synthesized genetic material to make sure that only one copy of the complete genome is generated and is meticulously placed inside the newly synthesized viral particle. These findings have important evolutionary implications about the origin and evolution of large viruses.
PMCID: PMC4093880  PMID: 24623441
24.  Mapping the triphosphatase active site of baculovirus mRNA capping enzyme LEF4 and evidence for a two-metal mechanism 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(5):1455-1463.
The 464-amino acid baculovirus LEF4 protein is a bifunctional mRNA capping enzyme with triphosphatase and guanylyltransferase activities. The N-terminal half of LEF4 constitutes an autonomous triphosphatase catalytic domain. The LEF4 triphosphatase belongs to a family of metal-dependent phosphohydrolases, which includes the RNA triphosphatases of fungi, protozoa, Chlorella virus and poxviruses. The family is defined by two glutamate-containing motifs (A and C), which form a metal-binding site. Most of the family members resemble the fungal and Chlorella virus enzymes, which have a complex active site located within the hydrophilic interior of a topologically closed eight stranded β barrel (the so-called ‘triphosphate tunnel’). Here we probed whether baculovirus LEF4 is a member of the tunnel subfamily, via mutational mapping of amino acids required for triphosphatase activity. We identified four new essential side chains in LEF4 via alanine scanning and illuminated structure–activity relationships by conservative substitutions. Our results, together with previous mutational data, highlight five acidic and four basic amino acids that are likely to comprise the LEF4 triphosphatase active site (Glu9, Glu11, Arg51, Arg53, Glu97, Lys126, Arg179, Glu181 and Glu183). These nine essential residues are conserved in LEF4 orthologs from all strains of baculoviruses. We discerned no pattern of clustering of the catalytic residues of the baculovirus triphosphatase that would suggest structural similarity to the tunnel proteins (exclusive of motifs A and C). However, there is similarity to the active site of vaccinia RNA triphosphatase. We infer that the baculovirus and poxvirus triphosphatases are a distinct lineage within the metal-dependent RNA triphosphatase family. Synergistic activation of the LEF4 triphosphatase by manganese and magnesium suggests a two-metal mechanism of γ phosphate hydrolysis.
PMCID: PMC149837  PMID: 12595553
25.  Genetic Screen of a Library of Chimeric Poxviruses Identifies an Ankyrin Repeat Protein Involved in Resistance to the Avian Type I Interferon Response 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(9):5028-5040.
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.
PMCID: PMC3624283  PMID: 23427151

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