The first influenza pandemic of the 21st century was caused by novel H1N1 viruses that emerged in early 2009. Molecular evolutionary analyses of the 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 [A(H1N1)pdm09] virus revealed two major clusters, cluster I and cluster II. Although the pathogenicity of viruses belonging to cluster I, which became extinct by the end of 2009, has been examined in a nonhuman primate model, the pathogenic potential of viruses belonging to cluster II, which has spread more widely in the world, has not been studied in this animal model. Here, we characterized two Norwegian isolates belonging to cluster II, namely, A/Norway/3568/2009 (Norway3568) and A/Norway/3487-2/2009 (Norway3487), which caused distinct clinical symptoms, despite their genetic similarity. We observed more efficient replication in cultured cells and delayed virus clearance from ferret respiratory organs for Norway3487 virus, which was isolated from a severe case, compared with the efficiency of replication and time of clearance of Norway3568 virus, which was isolated from a mild case. Moreover, Norway3487 virus to some extent caused more severe lung damage in nonhuman primates than did Norway3568 virus. Our data suggest that the distinct replicative and pathogenic potentials of these two viruses may result from differences in their biological properties (e.g., the receptor-binding specificity of hemagglutinin and viral polymerase activity).
By using two reporter protein-encoding virus-like RNAs derived from identical viral RNA (vRNA) segments, we assessed their incorporation efficiency into single progeny virions. Most plaques formed by the recombinant viruses that were generated in cells positive for both reporter genes expressed only one or the other protein. These results suggest that two virus-like RNAs encoding different reporter proteins compete for incorporation into virions, and individual influenza virions incorporate single, but not multiple, copies of homologous vRNA segments.
The influenza A virus (IAV) HA protein must be activated by host cells proteases in order to prime the molecule for fusion. Consequently, the availability of activating proteases and the susceptibility of HA to protease activity represents key factors in facilitating virus infection. As such, understanding the intricacies of HA cleavage by various proteases is necessary to derive insights into the emergence of pandemic viruses. To examine these properties, we generated a panel of HAs that are representative of the 16 HA subtypes that circulate in aquatic birds, as well as HAs representative of the subtypes that have infected the human population over the last century. We examined the susceptibility of the panel of HA proteins to trypsin, as well as human airway trypsin-like protease (HAT) and transmembrane protease, serine 2 (TMPRSS2). Additionally, we examined the pH at which these HAs mediated membrane fusion, as this property is related to the stability of the HA molecule and influences the capacity of influenza viruses to remain infectious in natural environments. Our results show that cleavage efficiency can vary significantly for individual HAs, depending on the protease, and that some HA subtypes display stringent selectivity for specific proteases as activators of fusion function. Additionally, we found that the pH of fusion varies by 0.7 pH units among the subtypes, and notably, we observed that the pH of fusion for most HAs from human isolates was lower than that observed from avian isolates of the same subtype. Overall, these data provide the first broad-spectrum analysis of cleavage-activation and membrane fusion characteristics for all of the IAV HA subtypes, and also show that there are substantial differences between the subtypes that may influence transmission among hosts and establishment in new species.
IAV is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, and represents a challenging public health threat that affects social and economic welfare each year, particularly during IAV pandemics. Although we know that all human strains derive, either directly or via intermediate hosts, from avian viral sources, we know very little about the phenotypic characteristics of the 16 HA subtypes that circulate in aquatic birds and have potential to infect mammals. HA membrane fusion properties, in conjunction with the characteristics for protease activation of HA, a requirement for fusion, are critical factors involved in the ecology and transmission of IAVs, and need to be understood if we are to derive explanations for how pandemic viruses emerge in humans. We examined the cleavage-activation and membrane fusion characteristics for the 16 HA subtypes by transiently expressing HA proteins in cells. Our findings show that the cleavability of the HAs vary considerably between subtypes and depending on the protease. Additionally, analysis of the pH of fusion for each subtype showed that HA stability varied significantly among the subtypes, as well as within subtypes from viruses isolated from different species. Overall, these data have implications for host range, potential for adaptation, and persistence in natural environments.
Here, we used a biologically contained Ebola virus system to characterize the spatio-temporal distribution of Ebola virus proteins and RNA during virus replication. We found that viral nucleoprotein (NP), the polymerase cofactor VP35, the major matrix protein VP40, the transcription activator VP30, and the minor matrix protein VP24 were distributed in cytoplasmic inclusions. These inclusions enlarged near the nucleus, became smaller pieces, and subsequently localized near the plasma membrane. GP was distributed in the cytoplasm and transported to the plasma membrane independent of the other viral proteins. We also found that viral RNA synthesis occurred within the inclusions. Newly synthesized negative-sense RNA was distributed inside the inclusions, whereas positive-sense RNA was distributed both inside and outside. These findings provide useful insights into Ebola virus replication.
Although two classes of antivirals, NA inhibitors and M2 ion channel blockers, are licensed for influenza treatment, dual resistant mutants, including highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses, have appeared. Alternative treatment options are, therefore, needed. Influenza A viral RNA (vRNA) transcription/replication is a promising target for antiviral development, since it is essential for virus replication. Accordingly, an efficient and reliable method to identify vRNA transcription/replication inhibitors is desirable. Here, we developed a cell-based screening system by establishing a cell line that stably expresses influenza viral ribonucleoprotein complex (vRNP). Compound library screening using this cell line allowed us to identify a compound that inhibits vRNA transcription/replication by using reporter protein expression from virus-like RNA as a readout and virus replication in vitro. vRNP-expressing cells have potential as a simple and convenient high-throughput screening (HTS) system, and, thus, are promising to identify vRNA transcription/replication inhibitors for various RNA viruses, especially for primary screens.
Interactions of proteins regulate signaling, catalysis, gene expression and many other cellular functions. Therefore, characterizing the entire human interactome is a key effort in current proteomics research. This challenge is complicated by the dynamic nature of protein-protein interactions (PPIs), which are conditional on the cellular context: both interacting proteins must be expressed in the same cell and localized in the same organelle to meet. Additionally, interactions underlie a delicate control of signaling pathways, e.g. by post-translational modifications of the protein partners - hence, many diseases are caused by the perturbation of these mechanisms. Despite the high degree of cell-state specificity of PPIs, many interactions are measured under artificial conditions (e.g. yeast cells are transfected with human genes in yeast two-hybrid assays) or even if detected in a physiological context, this information is missing from the common PPI databases. To overcome these problems, we developed a method that assigns context information to PPIs inferred from various attributes of the interacting proteins: gene expression, functional and disease annotations, and inferred pathways. We demonstrate that context consistency correlates with the experimental reliability of PPIs, which allows us to generate high-confidence tissue- and function-specific subnetworks. We illustrate how these context-filtered networks are enriched in bona fide pathways and disease proteins to prove the ability of context-filters to highlight meaningful interactions with respect to various biological questions. We use this approach to study the lung-specific pathways used by the influenza virus, pointing to IRAK1, BHLHE40 and TOLLIP as potential regulators of influenza virus pathogenicity, and to study the signalling pathways that play a role in Alzheimer's disease, identifying a pathway involving the altered phosphorylation of the Tau protein. Finally, we provide the annotated human PPI network via a web frontend that allows the construction of context-specific networks in several ways.
Protein-protein-interactions (PPIs) participate in virtually all biological processes. However, the PPI map is not static but the pairs of proteins that interact depends on the type of cell, the subcellular localization and modifications of the participating proteins, among many other factors. Therefore, it is important to understand the specific conditions under which a PPI happens. Unfortunately, experimental methods often do not provide this information or, even worse, measure PPIs under artificial conditions not found in biological systems. We developed a method to infer this missing information from properties of the interacting proteins, such as in which cell types the proteins are found, which functions they fulfill and whether they are known to play a role in disease. We show that PPIs for which we can infer conditions under which they happen have a higher experimental reliability. Also, our inference agrees well with known pathways and disease proteins. Since diseases usually affect specific cell types, we study PPI networks of influenza proteins in lung tissues and of Alzheimer's disease proteins in neural tissues. In both cases, we can highlight interesting interactions potentially playing a role in disease progression.
Highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza A viruses occasionally infect humans, but currently do not transmit efficiently among humans. The viral haemagglutinin (HA) protein is a known host range determinant since it mediates virus binding to host-specific cellular receptors1–3. Here, we therefore assessed the molecular changes in HA that would allow an H5 HA-possessing virus to transmit among mammals. We identified a reassortant virus with H5 HA possessing four mutations in a 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus backbone capable of droplet transmission in a ferret model. The transmissible H5 reassortant virus preferentially recognized human-type receptors, replicated efficiently in ferrets, caused lung lesions and weight loss, but it was not highly pathogenic and did not cause mortality. These results suggest that H5 HA can convert to an HA that supports efficient viral transmission in mammals. However, we do not know whether the four mutations in the H5 HA identified in this study would render a wholly avian H5N1 virus transmissible. The genetic origin of the remaining seven viral genes may also critically contribute to transmissibility in mammals. Nevertheless, as H5N1 viruses continue to evolve and infect humans, receptor-binding variants of H5N1 viruses with pandemic potential, including avian-human reassortant viruses as tested here, may emerge. Our findings emphasize the need for pandemic preparedness for H5 HA-possessing viruses and will help individuals conducting surveillance in regions with circulating H5N1 viruses to recognize key residues that predict the pandemic potential of isolates, which will inform the development, production, and distribution of effective countermeasures.
Plasmid-based reverse genetics systems allow the artificial generation of viruses with cloned cDNA-derived genomes. Since the establishment of such systems for influenza virus, numerous attempts have been made to tame this pathogenic agent. In particular, several types of viruses expressing foreign genes have been generated and used to further our knowledge of influenza virus replication and pathogenicity and to develop novel influenza vaccines. Here, we review these achievements and discuss future perspectives.
Influenza virus; reverse genetics; foreign gene expression
A biologically contained influenza A virus that stably expresses a foreign gene can be effectively traced, used to generate a novel multivalent vaccine and have its replication easily assessed, all while satisfying safety concerns regarding pathogenicity or reversion. This study generated a PB2-knockout (PB2-KO) influenza virus that harboured the GFP reporter gene in the coding region of its PB2 viral RNA (vRNA). Replication of the PB2-KO virus was restricted to a cell line stably expressing the PB2 protein. The GFP gene-encoding PB2 vRNA was stably incorporated into progeny viruses during replication in PB2-expressing cells. The GFP gene was expressed in virus-infected cells with no evidence of recombination between the recombinant PB2 vRNA and the PB2 protein mRNA. Furthermore, other reporter genes and the haemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes of different virus strains were accommodated by the PB2-KO virus. Finally, the PB2-KO virus was used to establish an improved assay to screen neutralizing antibodies against influenza viruses by using reporter gene expression as an indicator of virus infection rather than by observing cytopathic effect. These results indicate that the PB2-KO virus has the potential to be a valuable tool for basic and applied influenza virus research.
Viral pneumonia has been frequently reported during early stages of influenza virus pandemics and in many human cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus infection. To better understand the pathogenesis of this disease, we produced nonlethal viral pneumonia in rhesus macaques by using an HPAI H5N1 virus (A/Anhui/2/2005; referred to as Anhui/2). Infected macaques were monitored for 14 days, and tissue samples were collected at 6 time points for virologic, histopathologic, and transcriptomic analyses. Anhui/2 efficiently replicated in the lung from 12 h to 3 days postinfection (p.i.) and caused temporal but severe pneumonia that began to resolve by day 14. Lung transcriptional changes were first observed at 6 h, and increased expression of vascular permeability regulators and neutrophil chemoattractants correlated with increased serum leakage and neutrophil infiltration in situ. Additional inflammatory, antiviral, and apoptotic genes were upregulated from 12 h, concurrent with viral antigen detection and increasing immune cell populations. A shift toward upregulation of acquired immunity was apparent after day 6. Expression levels of established immune cell molecular markers revealed remarkable similarity with pathological findings, indicating early and robust neutrophil infiltration, a slight delay in macrophage accumulation, and abundant late populations of T lymphocytes. We also characterized the putative mechanisms regulating a unique, pneumonia-associated biphasic fever pattern. Thus, this study is the first to use a comprehensive and integrative approach to delineate specific molecular mechanisms regulating influenza virus-induced pneumonia in nonhuman primates, an important first step toward better management of human influenza virus disease.
Background. sGP, which is perceived as nonstructural, secretory glycoprotein, shares 295 amino acids at its N-terminal with GP1,2, which include the specific residue necessary to interact with GP2. In the present study, we tested whether the sGP protein of Zaire ebolavirus (ZEBOV) could substitute for GP1 and form a complex with GP2, thus serving as a structural protein.
Methods. We expressed ZEBOV GP1,2, VP40, and NP proteins, together with sGP protein, from expression plasmids and examined the resultant virus-like particles by using Western blot. Cells expressing GP2 in combination with either GP1 or sGP were analyzed by using flow cytometry with the KZ52 antibody, which recognizes a GP1,2 conformational epitope. A VSV pseudotype, VSVΔG*, which expresses a GFP reporter gene instead of the G protein, was used to produce pseudotyped viruses encoding sGP and variants of GP to test the contribution of sGP to infectivity.
Results. Western blot and flow cytometric analyses suggested the existence of a covalently linked sGP-GP2 molecule. VSVΔG*(sGP + GP2) and VSVΔG*(GP1,2) infected Vero E6 cells and were neutralized by the KZ52 antibody. Overexpression of sGP reduced the titer of VSVΔG*(GP1,2).
Conclusions. ZEBOV sGP can substitute for GP1, forming a sGP-GP2 complex and conferring infectivity. Our studies suggest a novel role for sGP as a structural protein.
The matrix protein VP40 of Marburg virus promotes the formation and release of virus-like particles (VLPs). Marburg virus VP40 interacts with cellular Tsg101 via its L domain motif; however, mutation of this motif does not affect VLP budding or the accumulation of VP40 in multivesicular bodies (MVBs), which are platforms for virus particle formation. To identify regions of Marburg virus VP40 that are important for VLP budding, we examined deletion mutants and alanine-scanning mutants at the N- and C-terminus of VP40 for their involvement in VLP budding. VLPs were not detected in the presence of alanine-replacement mutants at Ile39 and Thr40, and the level of VLP budding for the alanine mutant at Asn297 was decreased. Moreover, these mutants did not accumulate in MVBs. Our results suggest the involvement of a novel host factor(s) in VLP budding and VP40 transport to MVBs.
Ebola virus VP35 is a cofactor of the viral RNA polymerase complex and, together with NP and VP24, is an essential component for nucleocapsid formation. In the present study, we examined the interactions between VP35 and NP and found that VP35 interacts with helical NP-RNA complexes through the C-terminus of NP. We also found that coexpression of excess VP35 with NP reduced the yields of NP-RNA complexes purified by CsCl gradient ultracentrifugation and inhibited the formation of the NP-induced inclusion bodies that typically form in Ebola virus–infected cells. These findings suggest that the NP to VP35 ratio is important in the Ebola virus replication cycle and advance our knowledge of nucleocapsid morphogenesis.
Background. Similar to other viruses, the viral proteins of Ebola virus (EBOV) interact with a variety of host proteins for its replication. Of the 7 structural proteins encoded in the EBOV genome, VP24 is the smallest and is multifunctional.
Methods. To identify host factors that interact with VP24 and are required for EBOV replication, we transfected 293 cells with plasmid expressing FLAG- and HA-tagged VP24, immunoprecipitated the host proteins that bound to VP24, and analyzed the immunoprecipitants with use of mass spectrometry.
Results. Of the 68 candidate host proteins identified, we selected Sec61α because of its similar intracellular localization to that of VP24 (ie, perinuclear region), its involvement in various biological functions, and its roles in pathogenesis, such as type 2 diabetes and hepatosteatosis, and investigated its possible role in the EBOV life cycle. Our results suggest that Sec61α is not involved in EBOV entry, interferon antagonism by VP24, nucleocapsid formation, or budding. However, Sec61α colocalized with VP24 contributed to the ability of VP24 to inhibit EBOV genome transcription and reduced the polymerase activity of EBOV.
Conclusions. The present study indicates that Sec61α is a host protein involved in EBOV replication, specifically in EBOV genome transcription and replication.
Type I interferon (IFN) signaling is mediated through several signaling pathways, including the Janus kinase and signal transducer and activator (JAK-STAT) and p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathways. The VP24 protein of Ebolavirus is an IFN antagonist, blocking type I IFN signaling through the JAK-STAT pathway. Here, we show that, in 293 cells, VP24 also interferes with the p38 MAP kinase pathway by blocking IFN-β–stimulated phosphorylation of p38-α. Similar inhibition was not observed in HeLa cells, suggesting cell type–specific differences in signal transduction.
Negatively stained influenza virions sometimes show irregular morphology and are often referred to as pleomorphic. However, this irregular morphology has not been visualized when ultrathin-section transmission and scanning electron microscopies are used. This study focused on the effects of ultracentrifugation on influenza A virion morphology, as negative staining often involves ultracentrifugation to concentrate or purify virions. The morphologies of unfixed, glutaraldehyde-fixed and osmium tetroxide-fixed virions were quantitatively compared before and after ultracentrifugation, and it was found that, without chemical fixation, approximately 30 % of virions were altered from oval to irregular shapes following ultracentrifugation. By contrast, most glutaraldehyde-fixed virions remained uniformly elliptical, even after ultracentrifugation. When a virus with an 11 aa deletion at the C terminus of its M2 cytoplasmic tail was ultracentrifuged, its morphology was appreciably deformed compared with that of the wild-type virus. These results demonstrate that the native morphology of influenza A virions is regular but is disrupted by ultracentrifugation, and that the cytoplasmic tail of M2 is important for virion integrity.
The GagPol protein of HIV-1 harbors viral enzymes, such as protease (PR), reverse transcriptase, and integrase, that are all crucial for virion infectivity. Previous studies have suggested that expression of GagPol alone does not produce viral particles and that the budding defect is caused by the presence of the Pol region. However, it has remained unknown why GagPol fails to produce viral particles. We show here that HIV-1 GagPol is incapable of membrane binding and subsequent particle assembly. Our confocal data indicated that, despite full N-myristoylation, GagPol protein failed to target plasma membrane with diffuse distribution in the cytoplasm. Membrane flotation analysis confirmed these findings. Progressive C-terminal truncation of GagPol to give GagPR allowed for plasma membrane targeting but still not for particle production. Conversely, the C-terminal addition of a noncognate protein, such as ß-galactosidase or 4 tandem GFP, to Gag impaired the membrane affinity, indicating that the Pol region, a large extension to Gag, inhibits membrane binding in the context of GagPol. The addition of the 10 N-terminal amino acids of Fyn kinase [Fyn(10)], a tight membrane-binding signal, conferred plasma membrane targeting on GagPol, but the Fyn(10)GagPol did not produce viral particles. The defect in particle budding was not rescued by the introduction of the PTAP motif, which is responsible for a late stage of viral particle budding. Rather, electron microscopy suggested that the budding defect of GagPR occurred at an early stage of particle morphogenesis. Our data, which were consistent with previous observations, demonstrate the defects of GagPol in membrane binding and particle assembly.
A voluntary 60-day pause on avian H5N1 influenza virus transmission research was announced in January 2012 by the international community of influenza scientists engaged in this work to provide time to explain the benefits of such work and the risk mitigation measures in place. Subsequently, the pause was extended to allow for time for review of the biosafety and biosecurity conditions. After almost 8 months, these conditions have been met in some countries and are close to being met in others. Because H5N1 virus transmission studies are essential for pandemic preparedness, researchers who have approval from their governments and institutions to conduct this research safely under appropriate biosecurity conditions should resume this important work.
Marburg virus (family Filoviridae) causes sporadic outbreaks of severe hemorrhagic disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Bats have been implicated as likely natural reservoir hosts based most recently on an investigation of cases among miners infected in 2007 at the Kitaka mine, Uganda, which contained a large population of Marburg virus-infected Rousettus aegyptiacus fruit bats. Described here is an ecologic investigation of Python Cave, Uganda, where an American and a Dutch tourist acquired Marburg virus infection in December 2007 and July 2008. More than 40,000 R. aegyptiacus were found in the cave and were the sole bat species present. Between August 2008 and November 2009, 1,622 bats were captured and tested for Marburg virus. Q-RT-PCR analysis of bat liver/spleen tissues indicated ∼2.5% of the bats were actively infected, seven of which yielded Marburg virus isolates. Moreover, Q-RT-PCR-positive lung, kidney, colon and reproductive tissues were found, consistent with potential for oral, urine, fecal or sexual transmission. The combined data for R. aegyptiacus tested from Python Cave and Kitaka mine indicate low level horizontal transmission throughout the year. However, Q-RT-PCR data show distinct pulses of virus infection in older juvenile bats (∼six months of age) that temporarily coincide with the peak twice-yearly birthing seasons. Retrospective analysis of historical human infections suspected to have been the result of discrete spillover events directly from nature found 83% (54/65) events occurred during these seasonal pulses in virus circulation, perhaps demonstrating periods of increased risk of human infection. The discovery of two tags at Python Cave from bats marked at Kitaka mine, together with the close genetic linkages evident between viruses detected in geographically distant locations, are consistent with R. aegyptiacus bats existing as a large meta-population with associated virus circulation over broad geographic ranges. These findings provide a basis for developing Marburg hemorrhagic fever risk reduction strategies.
Marburg virus, like its close relative Ebola virus, can cause large outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever with case fatalities nearing 90%. For decades the identity of the natural reservoir was unknown. However, in 2007 Marburg viruses were isolated directly from Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) that inhabited a Ugandan gold mine where miners were previously infected. Soon after, two tourists became infected with Marburg virus after visiting nearby Python Cave, a popular attraction in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. This cave also contained R. aegyptiacus bats (∼40,000 animals). These events prompted a long-term investigation of Python Cave to determine if, 1) R. aegyptiacus in the cave carried infectious Marburg virus genetically similar to that found in the tourists, and 2) what ecological factors might influence virus spillover to humans. In the study, we found that, 1) approximately 2.5% of the bat colony is actively infected at any one time and that virus isolates from bats are genetically similar to those from infected tourists, and 2) specific age groups of bats (juveniles∼six months of age) are particularly likely to be infected at specific times of the year that roughly coincide with historical dates of Marburg virus spillover into humans.
Vaccination is the primary form of protection from influenza virus infection. We recently developed a replication-incompetent PB2-knockout (PB2-KO) influenza virus that possesses a reporter gene (the green fluorescent protein gene) in the coding region of the PB2 segment. This virus replicated to high titers in PB2-expressing, but not unmodified, cells, suggesting its potential safety and feasibility as a vaccine. Here, we tested its efficacy in a murine model. The levels of IgG and IgA antibodies against influenza virus in sera, nasal washes, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluids of mice immunized with the PB2-KO virus were higher than those induced by a conventional inactivated vaccine. All PB2-KO virus-immunized mice survived challenges with lethal doses of influenza virus. Moreover, importantly, mice immunized with the PB2-KO virus produced antibodies against the reporter protein, suggesting that the PB2-KO virus has potential as a multivalent vaccine to combat infection with not only influenza virus but also other pathogens.
Animal influenza viruses pose a clear threat to public health. Transmissibility among humans is a prerequisite for a novel influenza virus to cause a human pandemic. A novel reassortant swine influenza virus acquired sustained human-to-human transmissibility and caused the 2009 influenza pandemic. However, the molecular aspects of influenza virus transmission remain poorly understood. Here, we show that an amino acid in hemagglutinin (HA) is important for the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic virus (2009/H1N1) to bind to human virus receptors and confer respiratory droplet transmissibility in mammals. We found that the change from glutamine (Q) to arginine (R) at position 226 of HA, which causes a switch in receptor-binding preference from human α-2,6 to avian α-2,3 sialic acid, resulted in a virus incapable of respiratory droplet transmission in guinea pigs and reduced the virus's ability to replicate in the lungs of ferrets. The change from alanine (A) to threonine (T) at position 271 of PB2 also abolished the virus's respiratory droplet transmission in guinea pigs, and this mutation, together with the HA Q226R mutation, abolished the virus's respiratory droplet transmission in ferrets. Furthermore, we found that amino acid 271A of PB2 plays a key role in virus acquisition of the mutation at position 226 of HA that confers human receptor recognition. Our results highlight the importance of both the PB2 and HA genes on the adaptation and transmission of influenza viruses in humans and provide important insights for monitoring and evaluating the pandemic potential of field influenza viruses.
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.
Interpreting in vivo sampled microarray data is often complicated by changes in the cell population demographics. To put gene expression into its proper biological context, it is necessary to distinguish differential gene transcription from artificial gene expression induced by changes in the cellular demographics.
CTen (cell type enrichment) is a web-based analytical tool which uses our highly expressed, cell specific (HECS) gene database to identify enriched cell types in heterogeneous microarray data. The web interface is designed for differential expression and gene clustering studies, and the enrichment results are presented as heatmaps or downloadable text files.
In this work, we use an independent, cell-specific gene expression data set to assess CTen's performance in accurately identifying the appropriate cell type and provide insight into the suggested level of enrichment to optimally minimize the number of false discoveries. We show that CTen, when applied to microarray data developed from infected lung tissue, can correctly identify the cell signatures of key lymphocytes in a highly heterogeneous environment and compare its performance to another popular bioinformatics tool. Furthermore, we discuss the strong implications cell type enrichment has in the design of effective microarray workflow strategies and show that, by combining CTen with gene expression clustering, we may be able to determine the relative changes in the number of key cell types.
CTen is available at http://www.influenza-x.org/~jshoemaker/cten/
Cell type enrichment; Microarray data; Deconvolution; Influenza; Systems immunology