Recognition of viral double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) activates interferon production and immune signaling in host cells. Crystal structures of ebolavirus VP35 show that it caps dsRNA ends to prevent sensing by pattern recognition receptors such as RIG-I. In contrast, structures of marburgvirus VP35 show that it primarily coats the dsRNA backbone. Here, we demonstrate that ebolavirus VP35 also coats the dsRNA backbone in solution, although binding to the dsRNA ends probably constitutes the initial binding event.
Suppression during the early phases of the immune system often correlates directly with a fatal outcome for the host. The ebolaviruses, some of the most lethal viruses known, appear to cripple initial stages of the host defense network via multiple distinct paths. Two of the eight viral proteins are critical for immunosuppression. One of these proteins is VP35, which binds double-stranded RNA and antagonizes several antiviral signaling pathways.1,2 The other protein is VP24, which binds transporter molecules to prevent STAT1 translocation.3 A more recent discovery is that VP24 also binds STAT1 directly,4 suggesting that VP24 may operate in at least two separate branches of the interferon pathway. New crystal structures of VP24 derived from pathogenic and nonpathogenic ebolaviruses reveal its novel, pyramidal fold, upon which can be mapped sites required for virulence and for STAT1 binding. These structures of VP24, and new information about its direct binding to STAT1, provide avenues by which we may explore its many roles in the viral life cycle, and reasons for differences in pathogenesis among the ebolaviruses.
Ebola virus; IFNα; IFNβ; IFNγ; STAT1; VP24; VP35; X-ray crystallography; crystal structures; ebolavirus; interferon antagonist; karyopherin α proteins
The ebolavirus (EBOV) envelope glycoprotein (GP) is solely responsible for viral attachment to, fusion with, and entry of new host cells, and consequently is a major target of vaccine design efforts. Recently determined crystal structures of key antibodies in complex with their EBOV epitopes have provided insights into the molecular architecture of GP and defined likely hotspots for viral neutralization. In this review, we discuss the structural basis for antibody-mediated neutralization of ebolavirus and its implications for novel therapeutic or vaccine strategies.
Ebola Virus (EBOV) is a highly pathogenic member of the family Filoviridae of viruses that causes severe hemorrhagic fever. Infection proceeds through fusion of the host cell and viral membranes, a process that is mediated by the viral envelope glycoprotein (GP). Following endosomal uptake, a key step in viral entry is the proteolytic cleavage of GP by host endosomal cysteine proteases. Cleavage exposes a binding site for the host cell receptor Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) and may induce conformational changes in GP leading to membrane fusion. However, the precise details of the structural changes in GP associated with proteolysis and the role of these changes in viral entry have not been established. Here, we have employed synthetic antibody technology to identify antibodies targeting EBOV GP prior to and following proteolysis (i.e. in the “uncleaved” [GPUNCL] and “cleaved” [GPCL] forms). We identified antibodies with distinct recognition profiles: FabCL bound preferentially to GPCL (EC50 = 1.7 nM), whereas FabUNCL bound specifically to GPUNCL (EC50 = 75 nM). Neutralization assays with GP-containing pseudotyped viruses indicated that these antibodies inhibited GPCL or GPUNCL mediated viral entry with specificity matching their recognition profiles (IC50: 87 nM for IgGCL; 1 μM for FabUNCL). Competition ELISAs indicate that FabCL binds an epitope distinct from that of KZ52, a well-characterized EBOV GP antibody, and from that of the luminal domain of NPC1. The binding epitope of FabUNCL was also distinct from that of KZ52, suggesting that FabUNCL binds a novel neutralization epitope on GPUNCL. Furthermore, the neutralizing ability of FabCL suggests that there are targets on GPCL available for neutralization. This work showcases the applicability of synthetic antibody technology to the study of viral membrane fusion, and provides new tools for dissecting intermediates of EBOV entry.
Ebola Virus; Filovirus; Viral Membrane Fusion; Synthetic Antibodies; Antibody Engineering; Phage Display
The innate immune system is one of the first lines of defense against invading pathogens. Pathogens have, in turn, evolved different strategies to counteract these responses. Recent studies have illuminated how the hemorrhagic fever viruses Ebola and Lassa fever prevent host sensing of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), a key hallmark of viral infection. The ebolavirus protein VP35 adopts a unique bimodal configuration to mask key cellular recognition sites on dsRNA. Conversely, the Lassa fever virus nucleoprotein, NP, actually digests the dsRNA signature. Collectively, these structural and functional studies shed new light on the mechanisms of pathogenesis of these viruses and provide new targets for therapeutic intervention.
Antibody 14G7 is protective against lethal Ebola virus challenge and recognizes a distinct linear epitope in the prominent mucin-like domain of the Ebola virus glycoprotein GP. The structure of 14G7 in complex with its linear peptide epitope has now been determined to 2.8 Å. The structure shows that this GP sequence forms a tandem β-hairpin structure that binds deeply into a cleft in the antibody-combining site. A key threonine at the apex of one turn is critical for antibody interaction and is conserved among all Ebola viruses. This work provides further insight into the mechanism of protection by antibodies that target the protruding, highly accessible mucin-like domain of Ebola virus and the structural framework for understanding and characterizing candidate immunotherapeutics.
Lassa virus causes hemorrhagic fever characterized by immunosuppression. The nucleoprotein of Lassa virus, termed NP, binds the viral genome. It also has an additional enzymatic activity as an exonuclease that specifically digests double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). dsRNA is a strong signal to the innate immune system of viral infection. Digestion of dsRNA by the NP exonuclease activity appears to cause suppression of innate immune signaling in the infected cell. Although the fold of the NP enzyme is conserved and the active site completely conserved with other exonucleases in its DEDDh family, NP is atypical among exonucleases in its preference for dsRNA and its strict specificity for one substrate. Here, we present the crystal structure of Lassa virus NP in complex with dsRNA. We find that unlike the exonuclease in Klenow fragment, the double-stranded nucleic acid in complex with Lassa NP remains base-paired instead of splitting, and that binding of the paired complementary strand is achieved by “relocation” of a basic loop motif from its typical exonuclease position. Further, we find that just one single glycine that contacts the substrate strand and one single tyrosine that stacks with a base of the complementary, non-substrate strand are responsible for the unique substrate specificity. This work thus provides templates for development of antiviral drugs that would be specific for viral, rather than host exonucleases of similar fold and active site, and illustrates how a very few amino acid changes confer alternate specificity and biological phenotype to an enzyme.
Cellular entry of Ebola virus (EBOV), a deadly hemorrhagic fever virus, is mediated by the viral glycoprotein (GP). The receptor-binding subunit of GP must be cleaved (by endosomal cathepsins) in order for entry and infection to proceed. Cleavage appears to proceed through 50-kDa and 20-kDa intermediates, ultimately generating a key 19-kDa core. How 19-kDa GP is subsequently triggered to bind membranes and induce fusion remains a mystery. Here we show that 50-kDa GP cannot be triggered to bind to liposomes in response to elevated temperature but that 20-kDa and 19-kDa GP can. Importantly, 19-kDa GP can be triggered at temperatures ∼10°C lower than 20-kDa GP, suggesting that it is the most fusion ready form. Triggering by heat (or urea) occurs only at pH 5, not pH 7.5, and involves the fusion loop, as a fusion loop mutant is defective in liposome binding. We further show that mild reduction (preferentially at low pH) triggers 19-kDa GP to bind to liposomes, with the wild-type protein being triggered to a greater extent than the fusion loop mutant. Moreover, mild reduction inactivates pseudovirion infection, suggesting that reduction can also trigger 19-kDa GP on virus particles. Our results support the hypothesis that priming of EBOV GP, specifically to the 19-kDa core, potentiates GP to undergo subsequent fusion-relevant conformational changes. Our findings also indicate that low pH and an additional endosomal factor (possibly reduction or possibly a process mimicked by reduction) act as fusion triggers.
Sudan virus (genus ebolavirus) is lethal, yet no monoclonal antibody is known to neutralize it. Here we describe antibody 16F6 that neutralizes Sudan virus and present its structure bound to the trimeric viral glycoprotein. Unexpectedly, the 16F6 epitope overlaps that of KZ52, the only other antibody against the GP1,2 core to be visualized. Further, both antibodies against this key GP1–GP2-bridging epitope neutralize at a post-internalization step, likely fusion.
There are five antigenically distinct ebolaviruses that cause hemorrhagic fever in humans or non-human primates (Ebola virus, Sudan virus, Reston virus, Taï Forest virus, and Bundibugyo virus). The small handful of antibodies known to neutralize the ebolaviruses bind to the surface glycoprotein termed GP1,2. Curiously, some antibodies against them are known to neutralize in vitro but not protect in vivo, whereas other antibodies are known to protect animal models in vivo, but not neutralize in vitro. A detailed understanding of what constitutes a neutralizing and/or protective antibody response is critical for development of novel therapeutic strategies. Here, we show that paradoxically, a lower affinity antibody with restricted access to its epitope confers better neutralization than a higher affinity antibody against a similar epitope, suggesting that either subtle differences in epitope, or different characteristics of the GP1,2 molecules themselves, confer differential neutralization susceptibility. Here, we also report the crystal structure of trimeric, prefusion GP1,2 from the original 1976 Boniface variant of Sudan virus complexed with 16F6, the first antibody known to neutralize Sudan virus, and compare the structure to that of Sudan virus, variant Gulu. We discuss new structural details of the GP1-GP2 clamp, thermal motion of various regions in GP1,2 across the two viruses visualized, details of differential interaction of the crystallized neutralizing antibodies, and their relevance for virus neutralization.
Filovirus; Ebola; ebolavirus; Sudan virus; neutralization: glycoprotein; antibodies; structure
Ebolaviruses cause hemorrhagic fever with up to 90% lethality and in fatal cases, are characterized by early suppression of the host innate immune system. One of the proteins likely responsible for this effect is VP24. VP24 is known to antagonize interferon signaling by binding host karyopherin α proteins, thereby preventing them from transporting the tyrosine-phosphorylated transcription factor STAT1 to the nucleus. Here, we report that VP24 binds STAT1 directly, suggesting that VP24 can suppress at least two distinct branches of the interferon pathway. Here, we also report the first crystal structures of VP24, derived from different species of ebolavirus that are pathogenic (Sudan) and nonpathogenic to humans (Reston). These structures reveal that VP24 has a novel, pyramidal fold. A site on a particular face of the pyramid exhibits reduced solvent exchange when in complex with STAT1. This site is above two highly conserved pockets in VP24 that contain key residues previously implicated in virulence. These crystal structures and accompanying biochemical analysis map differences between pathogenic and nonpathogenic viruses, offer templates for drug design, and provide the three-dimensional framework necessary for biological dissection of the many functions of VP24 in the virus life cycle.
Ebolaviruses cause severe hemorrhagic fever that is exacerbated by immediate suppression of host immune function. VP24, one of only eight proteins encoded by ebolaviruses, functions in virus replication and assembly, and is thought to contribute to immune suppression by binding to a certain class of molecules called karyopherins to prevent them from transporting a transcription factor termed STAT1. Here we report that VP24 is also able to directly bind STAT1 by itself, and thereby likely contributes to immune suppression by an additional mechanism. Analysis of these multiple roles of VP24 and design of drugs against them have been hindered by the lack of structural information on VP24 and its lack of homology to any other known protein. Hence, here we also present X-ray structures of VP24 derived from two different ebolavirus species that are pathogenic and nonpathogenic to humans. These structures and accompanying deuterium exchange mass spectrometry identify the likely binding site of STAT1 onto VP24, map sites that are conserved or differ between pathogenic and nonpathogenic species, and provide the critical 3D templates by which we may dissect and interpret the many roles that VP24 plays in the virus life cycle.
Here, the techniques, tactics and strategies used to overcome a series of technical roadblocks in crystallization and phasing of the trimeric ebolavirus glycoprotein are described.
The trimeric membrane-anchored ebolavirus envelope glycoprotein (GP) is responsible for viral attachment, fusion and entry. Knowledge of its structure is important both for understanding ebolavirus entry and for the development of medical interventions. Crystal structures of viral glycoproteins, especially those in their metastable prefusion oligomeric states, can be difficult to achieve given the challenges in production, purification, crystallization and diffraction that are inherent in the heavily glycosylated flexible nature of these types of proteins. The crystal structure of ebolavirus GP in its trimeric prefusion conformation in complex with a human antibody derived from a survivor of the 1995 Kikwit outbreak has now been determined [Lee et al. (2008 ▶), Nature (London), 454, 177–182]. Here, the techniques, tactics and strategies used to overcome a series of technical roadblocks in crystallization and phasing are described. Glycoproteins were produced in human embryonic kidney 293T cells, which allowed rapid screening of constructs and expression of protein in milligram quantities. Complexes of GP with an antibody fragment (Fab) promoted crystallization and a series of deglycosylation strategies, including sugar mutants, enzymatic deglycosylation, insect-cell expression and glycan anabolic pathway inhibitors, were attempted to improve the weakly diffracting glycoprotein crystals. The signal-to-noise ratio of the search model for molecular replacement was improved by determining the structure of the uncomplexed Fab. Phase combination with Fab model phases and a selenium anomalous signal, followed by NCS-averaged density modification, resulted in a clear interpretable electron-density map. Model building was assisted by the use of B-value-sharpened electron-density maps and the proper sequence register was confirmed by building alternate sequences using N-linked glycan sites as anchors and secondary-structural predictions.
glycoproteins; structure determination; difficult structures; antibody complexes; viral proteins; human proteins; tactics to improve diffraction; techniques for phase determination; deglycosylation; model building
Glycoproteins mediate multiple, diverse and critical cellular functions, that are desirable to explore by structural analysis. However, structure determination of these molecules has been hindered by difficulties expressing milligram quantities of stable, homogeneous protein and in determining, which modifications will yield samples amenable to structural studies. We describe a platform proven effective for rapidly screening expression and crystallization of challenging glycoprotein targets produced in mammalian cells. Here, multiple glycoprotein constructs are produced in parallel by transient expression of adherent human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293T cells and subsequently screened in small quantities for crystallization by microfluidic free interface diffusion. As a result, recombinant proteins are produced and processed in a native, mammalian environment and crystallization screening can be accomplished with as little as 65 μg of protein. Moreover, large numbers of constructs can be screened for expression and crystallization and scaled up for structural studies in a matter of five weeks.
Ebolavirus (EBOV) is a highly virulent pathogen capable of causing a severe hemorrhagic fever with 50–90% lethality. The EBOV glycoprotein (GP) is the only virally expressed protein on the virion surface and is critical for attachment to host cells and catalysis of membrane fusion. Hence, the EBOV GP is a critical component of vaccines as well as a target of neutralizing antibodies and inhibitors of attachment and fusion. The crystal structure of the Zaire ebolavirus GP in its trimeric, prefusion conformation (3 GP1 plus 3 GP2) in complex with a neutralizing antibody fragment, derived from a human survivor of the 1995 Kikwit outbreak, was recently determined. This is the first near-complete structure of any filovirus glycoprotein. The overall molecular architecture of the Zaire ebolavirus GP and its role in viral entry and membrane fusion are discussed in this article.
cathepsin; ebola; Ebolavirus; filovirus; fusion protein; glycoprotein; membrane fusion; mucin-like domain; viral attachment; viral entry
Ebola virus (EBOV) entry requires the surface glycoprotein, GP, to initiate attachment and fusion of viral and host membranes. Here, we report the crystal structure of EBOV GP in its trimeric, pre-fusion conformation (GP1+GP2) bound to a neutralizing antibody, KZ52, derived from a human survivor of the 1995 Kikwit outbreak. Three GP1 viral attachment subunits assemble to form a chalice, cradled by the GP2 fusion subunits, while a novel glycan cap and projected mucin-like domain restrict access to the conserved receptor-binding site sequestered in the chalice bowl. The glycocalyx surrounding GP is likely central to immune evasion and may explain why survivors have insignificant neutralizing antibody titres. KZ52 recognizes a protein epitope at the chalice base where it clamps several regions of the pre-fusion GP2 to the N terminus of GP1. This structure now provides a template for unraveling the mechanism of EBOV GP-mediated fusion and for future immunotherapeutic development.
13F6-1-2 is a murine monoclonal antibody that recognizes the heavily glycosylated mucin-like domain of the Ebola virus virion-attached glycoprotein (GP) and protects animals against lethal viral challenge. Here we present the crystal structure, at 2.0 Å, of 13F6-1-2 in complex with its Ebola virus GP peptide epitope. The GP peptide binds in an extended conformation, anchored primarily by interactions to the heavy chain. Two GP residues, Gln P406 and Arg P409, make extensive side chain hydrogen bond and electrostatic interactions to the antibody and are likely critical for recognition and affinity. The 13F6-1-2 antibody utilizes a rare Vλx light chain. The three light chain complementarity determining regions (CDRs) do not adopt canonical conformations and represent new classes of structures distinct from Vκ and other Vλ light chains. In addition, although Vλx had been thought to confer specificity, all light chain contacts are mediated through germline-encoded residues. This structure of an antibody that protects against the Ebola virus now provides a framework for humanization and development of a post-exposure immunotherapeutic.
Ebola virus; Vλx light chain; glycoprotein; neutralizing antibody; new canonical structures of immunoglobulins; hypervariable loops; complementarity determining region; Fab-peptide complex
The human antibody b12 recognizes a discontinuous epitope on gp120 and is one of the rare monoclonal antibodies that neutralize a broad range of primary HIV-1 isolates. We previously reported the isolation of B2.1, a dimeric peptide that binds with high specificity to b12 and competes with gp120 for b12 antibody binding. Here, we show that the affinity of B2.1 was improved 60-fold over its synthetic-peptide counterpart by fusing it to the N-terminus of a soluble protein. This affinity, which is within an order of magnitude of that of gp120, probably more closely reflects the affinity of the phage-borne peptide. The crystal structure of a complex between Fab of b12 and B2.1 was determined at 1.8 Å resolution. The structural data allowed the differentiation of residues that form critical contacts with b12 from those required for maintenance of the antigenic structure of the peptide, and revealed that three contiguous residues mediate B2.1's critical contacts with b12. This single region of critical contact between the B2.1 peptide and the b12 paratope is unlikely to mimic the discontinuous key binding residues involved in the full b12 epitope for gp120, as previously identified by alanine scanning substitutions on the gp120 surface. These structural observations are supported by experiments that demonstrate that B2.1 is an ineffective immunogenic mimic of the b12 epitope on gp120. Indeed, an extensive series of immunizations with B2.1 in various forms failed to produce gp120 cross-reactive sera. The functional and structural data presented here, however, suggest that the mechanism by which b12 recognizes the two antigens is very different. Here, we present the first crystal structure of peptide bound to an antibody that was originally raised against a discontinuous protein epitope. Our results highlight the challenge of producing immunogens that mimic discontinuous protein epitopes, and the necessity of combining complementary experimental approaches in analyzing the antigenic and immunogenic properties of putative molecular mimics.
HIV-1; neutralizing; antibody; b12; discontinuous epitope; peptide; B2.1; mimotope; structure; immunogenicity
The Ebola virus (EBOV) VP35 protein blocks the virus-induced phosphorylation and activation of interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3), a transcription factor critical for the induction of alpha/beta interferon (IFN-α/β) expression. However, the mechanism(s) by which this blockage occurs remains incompletely defined. We now provide evidence that VP35 possesses double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-binding activity. Specifically, VP35 bound to poly(rI) · poly(rC)-coated Sepharose beads but not control beads. In contrast, two VP35 point mutants, R312A and K309A, were found to be greatly impaired in their dsRNA-binding activity. Competition assays showed that VP35 interacted specifically with poly(rI) · poly(rC), poly(rA) · poly(rU), or in vitro-transcribed dsRNAs derived from EBOV sequences, and not with single-stranded RNAs (ssRNAs) or double-stranded DNA. We then screened wild-type and mutant VP35s for their ability to target different components of the signaling pathways that activate IRF-3. These experiments indicate that VP35 blocks activation of IRF-3 induced by overexpression of RIG-I, a cellular helicase recently implicated in the activation of IRF-3 by either virus or dsRNA. Interestingly, the VP35 mutants impaired for dsRNA binding have a decreased but measurable IFN antagonist activity in these assays. Additionally, wild-type and dsRNA-binding-mutant VP35s were found to have equivalent abilities to inhibit activation of the IFN-β promoter induced by overexpression of IPS-1, a recently identified signaling molecule downstream of RIG-I, or by overexpression of the IRF-3 kinases IKKɛ and TBK-1. These data support the hypothesis that dsRNA binding may contribute to VP35 IFN antagonist function. However, additional mechanisms of inhibition, at a point proximal to the IRF-3 kinases, most likely also exist.
The identification and epitope mapping of broadly neutralizing anti-human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) antibodies (Abs) is important for vaccine design, but, despite much effort, very few such Abs have been forthcoming. Only one broadly neutralizing anti-gp41 monoclonal Ab (MAb), 2F5, has been described. Here we report on two MAbs that recognize a region immediately C-terminal of the 2F5 epitope. Both MAbs were generated from HIV-1-seropositive donors, one (Z13) from an antibody phage display library, and one (4E10) as a hybridoma. Both MAbs recognize a predominantly linear and relatively conserved epitope, compete with each other for binding to synthetic peptide derived from gp41, and bind to HIV-1MN virions. By flow cytometry, these MAbs appear to bind relatively weakly to infected cells and this binding is not perturbed by pretreatment of the infected cells with soluble CD4. Despite the apparent linear nature of the epitopes of Z13 and 4E10, denaturation of recombinant envelope protein reduces the binding of these MAbs, suggesting some conformational requirements for full epitope expression. Most significantly, Z13 and 4E10 are able to neutralize selected primary isolates from diverse subtypes of HIV-1 (e.g., subtypes B, C, and E). The results suggest that a rather extensive region of gp41 close to the transmembrane domain is accessible to neutralizing Abs and could form a useful target for vaccine design.
The task of international expert groups is to recommend the classification and naming of viruses. The ICTV Filoviridae Study Group and other experts have recently established an almost consistent classification and nomenclature for filoviruses. Here, further guidelines are suggested to include their natural genetic variants. First, this term is defined. Second, a template for full-length virus names (such as “Ebola virus H.sapiens-tc/COD/1995/Kikwit-9510621”) is proposed. These names contain information on the identity of the virus (e.g., Ebola virus), isolation host (e.g., members of the species Homo sapiens), sampling location (e.g., Democratic Republic of the Congo (COD)), sampling year, genetic variant (e.g., Kikwit), and isolate (e.g., 9510621). Suffixes are proposed for individual names that clarify whether a given genetic variant has been characterized based on passage zero material (-wt), has been passaged in tissue/cell culture (-tc), is known from consensus sequence fragments only (-frag), or does (most likely) not exist anymore (-hist). We suggest that these comprehensive names are to be used specifically in the methods section of publications. Suitable abbreviations, also proposed here, could then be used throughout the text, while the full names could be used again in phylograms, tables, or figures if the contained information aids the interpretation of presented data. The proposed system is very similar to the well-known influenzavirus nomenclature and the nomenclature recently proposed for rotaviruses. If applied consistently, it would considerably simplify retrieval of sequence data from electronic databases and be a first important step toward a viral genome annotation standard as sought by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Furthermore, adoption of this nomenclature would increase the general understanding of filovirus-related publications and presentations and improve figures such as phylograms, alignments, and diagrams. Most importantly, it would counter the increasing confusion in genetic variant naming due to the identification of ever more sequences through technological breakthroughs in high-throughput sequencing and environmental sampling.
cuevavirus; Ebola; Ebola virus; ebolavirus; filovirid; Filoviridae; filovirus; genome annotation; ICTV; International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses; Lloviu virus; Marburg virus; marburgvirus; mononegavirad; Mononegavirales; mononegavirus; virus classification; virus isolate; virus nomenclature; virus strain; virus taxonomy; virus variant
Ebolavirus (EBOV), the causative agent of a severe hemorrhagic fever and a biosafety level 4 pathogen, increases its genome coding capacity by producing multiple transcripts encoding for structural and nonstructural glycoproteins from a single gene. This is achieved through RNA editing, during which non-template adenosine residues are incorporated into the EBOV mRNAs at an editing site encoding for 7 adenosine residues. However, the mechanism of EBOV RNA editing is currently not understood. In this study, we report for the first time that minigenomes containing the glycoprotein gene editing site can undergo RNA editing, thereby eliminating the requirement for a biosafety level 4 laboratory to study EBOV RNA editing. Using a newly developed dual-reporter minigenome, we have characterized the mechanism of EBOV RNA editing, and have identified cis-acting sequences that are required for editing, located between 9 nt upstream and 9 nt downstream of the editing site. Moreover, we show that a secondary structure in the upstream cis-acting sequence plays an important role in RNA editing. EBOV RNA editing is glycoprotein gene-specific, as a stretch encoding for 7 adenosine residues located in the viral polymerase gene did not serve as an editing site, most likely due to an absence of the necessary cis-acting sequences. Finally, the EBOV protein VP30 was identified as a trans-acting factor for RNA editing, constituting a novel function for this protein. Overall, our results provide novel insights into the RNA editing mechanism of EBOV, further understanding of which might result in novel intervention strategies against this viral pathogen.
Ebola virus (EBOV) causes severe hemorrhagic fever with case fatality rates of up to 90% and no therapy or vaccine currently available. A better understanding of the EBOV life cycle is important to develop new countermeasures against this virus; however, research with live EBOV is restricted to high containment laboratories. One unique feature of the EBOV life cycle is that its surface glycoprotein is expressed only after editing of the glycoprotein mRNA by the viral polymerase, leading to an insertion of a non-templated nucleotide into the mRNA. While this phenomenon has been long known, the mechanism of mRNA editing for EBOV is not understood. We have developed a unique minigenome system that allows the study of EBOV mRNA editing outside of a high containment laboratory. Using this system we have characterized EBOV mRNA editing and defined the sequence requirements for this process. Interestingly, we could show that signals both up- and downstream of the editing site are important, and that a secondary structure in the RNA upstream of the editing site as well as the viral protein VP30 contribute to editing. These findings provide new detailed molecular information about an essential process in the EBOV life cycle, which might be a potential novel target for antivirals.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease, first described in China in 1984, causes hemorrhagic necrosis of the liver. Its etiological agent, rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), belongs to the Lagovirus genus in the family Caliciviridae. The detailed molecular structure of any lagovirus capsid has yet to be determined. Here, we report a cryo-electron microscopic (cryoEM) reconstruction of wild-type RHDV at 6.5 Å resolution and the crystal structures of the shell (S) and protruding (P) domains of its major capsid protein, VP60, each at 2.0 Å resolution. From these data we built a complete atomic model of the RHDV capsid. VP60 has a conserved S domain and a specific P2 sub-domain that differs from those found in other caliciviruses. As seen in the shell portion of the RHDV cryoEM map, which was resolved to ∼5.5 Å, the N-terminal arm domain of VP60 folds back onto its cognate S domain. Sequence alignments of VP60 from six groups of RHDV isolates revealed seven regions of high variation that could be mapped onto the surface of the P2 sub-domain and suggested three putative pockets might be responsible for binding to histo-blood group antigens. A flexible loop in one of these regions was shown to interact with rabbit tissue cells and contains an important epitope for anti-RHDV antibody production. Our study provides a reliable, pseudo-atomic model of a Lagovirus and suggests a new candidate for an efficient vaccine that can be used to protect rabbits from RHDV infection.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), first described in China in 1984, causes hemorrhagic necrosis of the liver within three days after infection and with a mortality rate that exceeds 90%. RHD has spread to large parts of the world and threatens the rabbit industry and related ecology. Its etiological agent, rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), belongs to the Lagovirus genus in the family Caliciviridae. Currently, the absence of a high-resolution model of any lagovirus impedes our understanding of its molecular interactions with hosts and successful design of an efficient anti-RHDV vaccine. Here, we use hybrid structural approaches to construct a pseudo-atomic model of RHDV that reveals significant differences in the P2 sub-domain of the major capsid protein compared to that seen in other caliciviruses. We identified seven regions of high sequence variation in this sub-domain that dictate the binding specificities of histo-blood group antigens. In one of these regions, we identified an antigenic peptide that interacts with rabbit tissue cells and elicits a significant immune response in rabbits and, hence, protects them from RHDV infection. Our pseudo-atomic model provides a structural framework for developing new anti-RHDV vaccines and will also help guide use of the RHDV capsid as a vehicle to display human tumor antigens as part of anti-tumor therapy.
Filoviruses, including Marburg virus (MARV) and Ebola virus (EBOV), cause fatal hemorrhagic fever in humans and non-human primates. All filoviruses encode a unique multi-functional protein termed VP35. The C-terminal double-stranded (ds)RNA-binding domain (RBD) of VP35 has been implicated in interferon antagonism and immune evasion. Crystal structures of the VP35 RBD from two ebolaviruses have previously demonstrated that the viral protein caps the ends of dsRNA. However, it is not yet understood how the expanses of dsRNA backbone, between the ends, are masked from immune surveillance during filovirus infection. Here, we report the crystal structure of MARV VP35 RBD bound to dsRNA. In the crystal structure, molecules of dsRNA stack end-to-end to form a pseudo-continuous oligonucleotide. This oligonucleotide is continuously and completely coated along its sugar-phosphate backbone by the MARV VP35 RBD. Analysis of dsRNA binding by dot-blot and isothermal titration calorimetry reveals that multiple copies of MARV VP35 RBD can indeed bind the dsRNA sugar-phosphate backbone in a cooperative manner in solution. Further, MARV VP35 RBD can also cap the ends of the dsRNA in solution, although this arrangement was not captured in crystals. Together, these studies suggest that MARV VP35 can both coat the backbone and cap the ends, and that for MARV, coating of the dsRNA backbone may be an essential mechanism by which dsRNA is masked from backbone-sensing immune surveillance molecules.
Filoviruses, Marburg virus and five ebolaviruses, cause severe hemorrhagic fever that is characterized by suppression of the innate immune system. Important to immunosuppression is the viral protein VP35, which binds to and masks double-stranded (ds)RNA, a key signature of virus infection that is recognized by host sentry proteins like RIG-I and MDA-5. Previous crystal structures of VP35 from two ebolaviruses showed it to form an asymmetric dimer to cap the ends of dsRNA molecules. However, the question remained whether VP35 could mask remaining lengths of dsRNA between the ends from immune surveillance. Here we present the crystal structure of the dsRNA-binding domain (RBD) of Marburg virus VP35, alone and in complex with dsRNA. This crystal structure presents a very different arrangement of VP35s on dsRNA. Rather than binding only the ends, the Marburg virus VP35s spiral around the dsRNA backbone, continuously coating it. Additional biochemical experiments indicate that this continuous coating occurs in solution, and that like the ebolaviruses, Marburg virus VP35 is also able to cap the dsRNA ends, even though this was not apparent in the crystal structure. Together, this work illustrates how Marburg virus VP35 prevents recognition of dsRNA by backbone-sensing immune sentry molecules and provides an additional avenue for antiviral development.