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1.  Recent Emergence and Spread of an Arctic-Related Phylogenetic Lineage of Rabies Virus in Nepal 
Rabies is a zoonotic disease that is endemic in many parts of the developing world, especially in Africa and Asia. However its epidemiology remains largely unappreciated in much of these regions, such as in Nepal, where limited information is available about the spatiotemporal dynamics of the main etiological agent, the rabies virus (RABV). In this study, we describe for the first time the phylogenetic diversity and evolution of RABV circulating in Nepal, as well as their geographical relationships within the broader region. A total of 24 new isolates obtained from Nepal and collected from 2003 to 2011 were full-length sequenced for both the nucleoprotein and the glycoprotein genes, and analysed using neighbour-joining and maximum-likelihood phylogenetic methods with representative viruses from all over the world, including new related RABV strains from neighbouring or more distant countries (Afghanistan, Greenland, Iran, Russia and USA). Despite Nepal's limited land surface and its particular geographical position within the Indian subcontinent, our study revealed the presence of a surprising wide genetic diversity of RABV, with the co-existence of three different phylogenetic groups: an Indian subcontinent clade and two different Arctic-like sub-clades within the Arctic-related clade. This observation suggests at least two independent episodes of rabies introduction from neighbouring countries. In addition, specific phylogenetic and temporal evolution analysis of viruses within the Arctic-related clade has identified a new recently emerged RABV lineage we named as the Arctic-like 3 (AL-3) sub-clade that is already widely spread in Nepal.
Author Summary
Rabies is endemic in most Asian countries and represents a serious public health issue, with an estimated 31,000 people dying each year of this disease. The majority of human cases are transmitted by domestic dogs, which act as the principal reservoir host and vector. However, molecular epidemiology and evolutionary dynamics of the main etiological agent, the rabies virus (RABV), remains largely unappreciated in some regions such as in Nepal. Based on a subset of 24 new Nepalese isolates collected from 2003 to 2011 and representative RABV strains at a global scale, phylogenetic analysis based on the complete nucleoprotein and glycoprotein genes sequences revealed the presence of a surprising wide genetic diversity of RABV circulating in this country. The presence of three different co-existing phylogenetic groups was identified: an Indian subcontinent clade and two different Arctic-like sub-clades within the Arctic-related clade, namely Arctic-like (AL)-1, lineage a (AL-1a), and AL-3. Among these clusters, the AL-3 sub-clade appears as the major Nepalese phylogroup which emerged relatively recently in this country, within the last 30 years. These data has raised some concerns about the exchange of RABV between different countries, and provided key elements for implementation of effective control measures of rabies in Nepal.
PMCID: PMC3836727  PMID: 24278494
2.  The origin and phylogeography of dog rabies virus 
The Journal of General Virology  2008;89(Pt 11):2673-2681.
Rabies is a progressively fatal and incurable viral encephalitis caused by a lyssavirus infection. Almost all of the 55 000 annual rabies deaths in humans result from infection with dog rabies viruses (RABV). Despite the importance of rabies for human health, little is known about the spread of RABV in dog populations, and patterns of biodiversity have only been studied in limited geographical space. To address these questions on a global scale, we sequenced 62 new isolates and performed an extensive comparative analysis of RABV gene sequence data, representing 192 isolates sampled from 55 countries. From this, we identified six clades of RABV in non-flying mammals, each of which has a distinct geographical distribution, most likely reflecting major physical barriers to gene flow. Indeed, a detailed analysis of phylogeographic structure revealed only limited viral movement among geographical localities. Using Bayesian coalescent methods we also reveal that the sampled lineages of canid RABV derive from a common ancestor that originated within the past 1500 years. Additionally, we found no evidence for either positive selection or widespread population bottlenecks during the global expansion of canid RABV. Overall, our study reveals that the stochastic processes of genetic drift and population subdivision are the most important factors shaping the global phylogeography of canid RABV.
PMCID: PMC3326349  PMID: 18931062
3.  Two Overlapping Domains of a Lyssavirus Matrix Protein That Acts on Different Cell Death Pathways ▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(19):9897-9906.
The lyssavirus matrix (M) protein induces apoptosis. The regions of the M protein that are essential for triggering cell death pathways are not yet clearly defined. We therefore compared the M proteins from two viruses that have contrasting characteristics in terms of cellular apoptosis: a genotype 3 lyssavirus, Mokola virus (MOK), and a genotype 1 rabies virus isolated from a dog from Thailand (THA). We identified a 20-amino-acid fragment (corresponding to positions 67 to 86) that retained the cell death activities of the full-length M protein from MOK via both the tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and inhibition of cytochrome c oxidase (CcO) activity. We found that the amino acids at positions 77 and 81 have an essential role in triggering these two cell death pathways. Directed mutagenesis demonstrated that the amino acid at position 77 affects CcO activity, whereas the amino acid at position 81 affects TRAIL-dependent apoptosis. Mutations in the full-length M protein that compromised induction of either of these two pathways resulted in delayed apoptosis compared with the time to apoptosis for the nonmutated control.
PMCID: PMC2937802  PMID: 20631119
4.  Application of Broad-Spectrum Resequencing Microarray for Genotyping Rhabdoviruses▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(18):9557-9574.
The rapid and accurate identification of pathogens is critical in the control of infectious disease. To this end, we analyzed the capacity for viral detection and identification of a newly described high-density resequencing microarray (RMA), termed PathogenID, which was designed for multiple pathogen detection using database similarity searching. We focused on one of the largest and most diverse viral families described to date, the family Rhabdoviridae. We demonstrate that this approach has the potential to identify both known and related viruses for which precise sequence information is unavailable. In particular, we demonstrate that a strategy based on consensus sequence determination for analysis of RMA output data enabled successful detection of viruses exhibiting up to 26% nucleotide divergence with the closest sequence tiled on the array. Using clinical specimens obtained from rabid patients and animals, this method also shows a high species level concordance with standard reference assays, indicating that it is amenable for the development of diagnostic assays. Finally, 12 animal rhabdoviruses which were currently unclassified, unassigned, or assigned as tentative species within the family Rhabdoviridae were successfully detected. These new data allowed an unprecedented phylogenetic analysis of 106 rhabdoviruses and further suggest that the principles and methodology developed here may be used for the broad-spectrum surveillance and the broader-scale investigation of biodiversity in the viral world.
PMCID: PMC2937603  PMID: 20610710
5.  Structure of the Nucleoprotein Binding Domain of Mokola Virus Phosphoprotein▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;84(2):1089-1096.
Mokola virus (MOKV) is a nonsegmented, negative-sense RNA virus that belongs to the Lyssavirus genus and Rhabdoviridae family. MOKV phosphoprotein P is an essential component of the replication and transcription complex and acts as a cofactor for the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. P recruits the viral polymerase to the nucleoprotein-bound viral RNA (N-RNA) via an interaction between its C-terminal domain and the N-RNA complex. Here we present a structure for this domain of MOKV P, obtained by expression of full-length P in Escherichia coli, which was subsequently truncated during crystallization. The structure has a high degree of homology with P of rabies virus, another member of Lyssavirus genus, and to a lesser degree with P of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a member of the related Vesiculovirus genus. In addition, analysis of the crystal packing of this domain reveals a potential binding site for the nucleoprotein N. Using both site-directed mutagenesis and yeast two-hybrid experiments to measure P-N interaction, we have determined the relative roles of key amino acids involved in this interaction to map the region of P that binds N. This analysis also reveals a structural relationship between the N-RNA binding domain of the P proteins of the Rhabdoviridae and the Paramyxoviridae.
PMCID: PMC2798355  PMID: 19906936
6.  European Bat Lyssavirus Transmission among Cats, Europe 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2009;15(2):280-284.
We identified 2 cases of European bat lyssavirus subtype 1 transmission to domestic carnivores (cats) in France. Bat-to-cat transmission is suspected. Low amounts of virus antigen in cat brain made diagnosis difficult.
PMCID: PMC2657616  PMID: 19193273
Rabies; lyssavirus; chiroptera; cats; diagnosis; spillover; transmission; Europe; dispatch
7.  Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Lyssavirus-Induced Apoptosis▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(10):4774-4784.
Lyssaviruses are highly neurotropic viruses associated with neuronal apoptosis. Previous observations have indicated that the matrix proteins (M) of some lyssaviruses induce strong neuronal apoptosis. However, the molecular mechanism(s) involved in this phenomenon is still unknown. We show that for Mokola virus (MOK), a lyssavirus of low pathogenicity, the M (M-MOK) targets mitochondria, disrupts the mitochondrial morphology, and induces apoptosis. Our analysis of truncated M-MOK mutants suggests that the information required for efficient mitochondrial targeting and dysfunction, as well as caspase-9 activation and apoptosis, is held between residues 46 and 110 of M-MOK. We used a yeast two-hybrid approach, a coimmunoprecipitation assay, and confocal microscopy to demonstrate that M-MOK physically associates with the subunit I of the cytochrome c (cyt-c) oxidase (CcO) of the mitochondrial respiratory chain; this is in contrast to the M of the highly pathogenic Thailand lyssavirus (M-THA). M-MOK expression induces a significant decrease in CcO activity, which is not the case with M-THA. M-MOK mutations (K77R and N81E) resulting in a similar sequence to M-THA at positions 77 and 81 annul cyt-c release and apoptosis and restore CcO activity. As expected, the reverse mutations, R77K and E81N, introduced in M-THA induce a phenotype similar to that due to M-MOK. These features indicate a novel mechanism for energy depletion during lyssavirus-induced apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2346764  PMID: 18321977
8.  Genomic Diversity and Evolution of the Lyssaviruses 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(4):e2057.
Lyssaviruses are RNA viruses with single-strand, negative-sense genomes responsible for rabies-like diseases in mammals. To date, genomic and evolutionary studies have most often utilized partial genome sequences, particularly of the nucleoprotein and glycoprotein genes, with little consideration of genome-scale evolution. Herein, we report the first genomic and evolutionary analysis using complete genome sequences of all recognised lyssavirus genotypes, including 14 new complete genomes of field isolates from 6 genotypes and one genotype that is completely sequenced for the first time. In doing so we significantly increase the extent of genome sequence data available for these important viruses. Our analysis of these genome sequence data reveals that all lyssaviruses have the same genomic organization. A phylogenetic analysis reveals strong geographical structuring, with the greatest genetic diversity in Africa, and an independent origin for the two known genotypes that infect European bats. We also suggest that multiple genotypes may exist within the diversity of viruses currently classified as ‘Lagos Bat’. In sum, we show that rigorous phylogenetic techniques based on full length genome sequence provide the best discriminatory power for genotype classification within the lyssaviruses.
PMCID: PMC2327259  PMID: 18446239
9.  Phylogeography, Population Dynamics, and Molecular Evolution of European Bat Lyssaviruses 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(16):10487-10497.
European bat lyssaviruses types 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and EBLV-2) are widespread in Europe, although little is known of their evolutionary history. We undertook a comprehensive sequence analysis to infer the selection pressures, rates of nucleotide substitution, age of genetic diversity, geographical origin, and population growth rates of EBLV-1. Our study encompassed data from 12 countries collected over a time span of 35 years and focused on the glycoprotein (G) and nucleoprotein (N) genes. We show that although the two subtypes of EBLV-1—EBLV-1a and EBLV-1b—have both grown at a low exponential rate since their introduction into Europe, they have differing population structures and dispersal patterns. Furthermore, there were strong constraints against amino acid change in both EBLV-1 and EBLV-2, as reflected in a low ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitutions per site, particularly in EBLV-1b. Our inferred rate of nucleotide substitution in EBLV-1, approximately 5 × 10−5 substitutions per site per year, was also one of the lowest recorded for RNA viruses and implied that the current genetic diversity in the virus arose 500 to 750 years ago. We propose that the slow evolution of EBLVs reflects their distinctive epidemiology in bats, where they occupy a relatively stable fitness peak.
PMCID: PMC1182613  PMID: 16051841
10.  Lyssavirus Matrix Protein Induces Apoptosis by a TRAIL-Dependent Mechanism Involving Caspase-8 Activation 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(12):6543-6555.
Lyssaviruses, which are members of the Rhabdoviridae family, induce apoptosis, which plays an important role in the neuropathogenesis of rabies. However, the mechanisms by which these viruses mediate neuronal apoptosis have not been elucidated. Here we demonstrate that the early induction of apoptosis in a model of lyssavirus-infected neuroblastoma cells involves a TRAIL-dependent pathway requiring the activation of caspase-8 but not of caspase-9 or caspase-10. The activation of caspase-8 results in the activation of caspase-3 and caspase-6, as shown by an increase in the cleavage of the specific caspase substrate in lyssavirus-infected cells. However, neither caspase-1 nor caspase-2 activity was detected during the early phase of infection. Lyssavirus-mediated cell death involves an interaction between TRAIL receptors and TRAIL, as demonstrated by experiments using neutralizing antibodies and soluble decoy TRAIL-R1/R2 receptors. We also demonstrated that the decapsidation and replication of lyssavirus are essential for inducing apoptosis, as supported by UV inactivation, cycloheximide treatment, and the use of bafilomycin A1 to inhibit endosomal acidification. Transfection of cells with the matrix protein induced apoptosis using pathways similar to those described in the context of viral infection. Furthermore, our data suggest that the matrix protein of lyssaviruses plays a major role in the early induction of TRAIL-mediated apoptosis by the release of a soluble, active form of TRAIL. In our model, Fas ligand (CD95L) appears to play a limited role in lyssavirus-mediated neuroblastoma cell death. Similarly, tumor necrosis factor alpha does not appear to play an important role.
PMCID: PMC416538  PMID: 15163747

Results 1-10 (10)