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1.  Efficacy of Repeated Intravenous Administration of Peramivir against Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus in Cynomolgus Macaques 
Highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) viruses cause severe and often fatal disease in humans. We evaluated the efficacy of repeated intravenous dosing of the neuraminidase inhibitor peramivir against highly pathogenic avian influenza virus A/Vietnam/UT3040/2004 (H5N1) infection in cynomolgus macaques. Repeated dosing of peramivir (30 mg/kg/day once a day for 5 days) starting immediately after infection significantly reduced viral titers in the upper respiratory tract, body weight loss, and cytokine production and resulted in a significant body temperature reduction in infected macaques compared with that of macaques administered a vehicle (P < 0.05). Repeated administration of peramivir starting at 24 h after infection also resulted in a reduction in viral titers and a reduction in the period of virus detection in the upper respiratory tract, although the body temperature change was not statistically significant. The macaque model used in the present study demonstrated that inhibition of viral replication at an early time point after infection by repeated intravenous treatment with peramivir is critical for reduction of the production of cytokines, i.e., interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor α, gamma interferon, monocyte chemotactic protein 1, and IL-12p40, resulting in amelioration of symptoms caused by highly pathogenic avian influenza virus infection.
PMCID: PMC4135987  PMID: 24913156
2.  Disease Severity Is Associated with Differential Gene Expression at the Early and Late Phases of Infection in Nonhuman Primates Infected with Different H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(16):8981-8997.
Occasional transmission of highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses to humans causes severe pneumonia with high mortality. To better understand the mechanisms via which H5N1 viruses induce severe disease in humans, we infected cynomolgus macaques with six different H5N1 strains isolated from human patients and compared their pathogenicity and the global host responses to the virus infection. Although all H5N1 viruses replicated in the respiratory tract, there was substantial heterogeneity in their replicative ability and in the disease severity induced, which ranged from asymptomatic to fatal. A comparison of global gene expression between severe and mild disease cases indicated that interferon-induced upregulation of genes related to innate immunity, apoptosis, and antigen processing/presentation in the early phase of infection was limited in severe disease cases, although interferon expression was upregulated in both severe and mild cases. Furthermore, coexpression analysis of microarray data, which reveals the dynamics of host responses during the infection, demonstrated that the limited expression of these genes early in infection led to a failure to suppress virus replication and to the hyperinduction of genes related to immunity, inflammation, coagulation, and homeostasis in the late phase of infection, resulting in a more severe disease. Our data suggest that the attenuated interferon-induced activation of innate immunity, apoptosis, and antigen presentation in the early phase of H5N1 virus infection leads to subsequent severe disease outcome.
IMPORTANCE Highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses sometimes transmit to humans and cause severe pneumonia with ca. 60% lethality. The continued circulation of these viruses poses a pandemic threat; however, their pathogenesis in mammals is not fully understood. We, therefore, investigated the pathogenicity of six H5N1 viruses and compared the host responses of cynomolgus macaques to the virus infection. We identified differences in the viral replicative ability of and in disease severity caused by these H5N1 viruses. A comparison of global host responses between severe and mild disease cases identified the limited upregulation of interferon-stimulated genes early in infection in severe cases. The dynamics of the host responses indicated that the limited response early in infection failed to suppress virus replication and led to hyperinduction of pathological condition-related genes late in infection. These findings provide insight into the pathogenesis of H5N1 viruses in mammals.
PMCID: PMC4136255  PMID: 24899188
3.  Amino acids substitutions in the PB2 protein of H7N9 influenza A viruses are important for virulence in mammalian hosts 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:8039.
We tested the biological significance of two amino acid mutations in the PB2 protein (glutamic acid to lysine at position 627 and aspartic acid to asparagine at position 701) of A(H7N9) viruses for mammalian adaptation. Mutants were assessed for their viral polymerase activities, growth kinetics in mammalian and avian cells, and pathogenicity in mice. We found that lysine at position 627 and asparagine at position 701 in PB2 are essential for mammalian adaptation of A(H7N9) viruses.
PMCID: PMC4306964  PMID: 25623817
4.  Analysis of Lujo Virus Cell Entry using Pseudotype Vesicular Stomatitis Virus 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(13):7317-7330.
Several arenaviruses are known to cause viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) in sub-Saharan Africa and South America, where VHF is a major public health and medical concern. The biosafety level 4 categorization of these arenaviruses restricts their use and has impeded biological studies, including therapeutic drug and/or vaccine development. Due to difficulties associated with handling live viruses, pseudotype viruses, which transiently bear arenavirus envelope proteins based on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) or retrovirus, have been developed as surrogate virus systems. Here, we report the development of a pseudotype VSV bearing each envelope protein of various species of arenaviruses (AREpv), including the newly identified Lujo virus (LUJV) and Chapare virus. Pseudotype arenaviruses generated in 293T cells exhibited high infectivity in various mammalian cell lines. The infections by New World and Old World AREpv were dependent on their receptors (human transferrin receptor 1 [hTfR1] and α-dystroglycan [αDG], respectively). However, infection by pseudotype VSV bearing the LUJV envelope protein (LUJpv) occurred independently of hTfR1 and αDG, indicating that LUJpv utilizes an unidentified receptor. The pH-dependent endocytosis of AREpv was confirmed by the use of lysosomotropic agents. The fusion of cells expressing these envelope proteins, except for those expressing the LUJV envelope protein, was induced by transient treatment at low pH values. LUJpv infectivity was inhibited by U18666A, a cholesterol transport inhibitor. Furthermore, the infectivity of LUJpv was significantly decreased in the Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1)-deficient cell line, suggesting the necessity for NPC1 activity for efficient LUJpv infection.
IMPORTANCE LUJV is a newly identified arenavirus associated with a VHF outbreak in southern Africa. Although cell entry for many arenaviruses has been studied, cell entry for LUJV has not been characterized. In this study, we found that LUJpv utilizes neither αDG nor hTfR1 as a receptor and found unique characteristics of LUJV glycoprotein in membrane fusion and cell entry. Proper exclusion of cholesterol or some kinds of lipids may play important roles in LUJpv cell entry.
PMCID: PMC4054455  PMID: 24741091
5.  Genetics, Receptor Binding Property, and Transmissibility in Mammals of Naturally Isolated H9N2 Avian Influenza Viruses 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(11):e1004508.
H9N2 subtype influenza viruses have been detected in different species of wild birds and domestic poultry in many countries for several decades. Because these viruses are of low pathogenicity in poultry, their eradication is not a priority for animal disease control in many countries, which has allowed them to continue to evolve and spread. Here, we characterized the genetic variation, receptor-binding specificity, replication capability, and transmission in mammals of a series of H9N2 influenza viruses that were detected in live poultry markets in southern China between 2009 and 2013. Thirty-five viruses represented 17 genotypes on the basis of genomic diversity, and one specific “internal-gene-combination” predominated among the H9N2 viruses. This gene combination was also present in the H7N9 and H10N8 viruses that have infected humans in China. All of the 35 viruses preferentially bound to the human-like receptor, although two also retained the ability to bind to the avian-like receptor. Six of nine viruses tested were transmissible in ferrets by respiratory droplet; two were highly transmissible. Some H9N2 viruses readily acquired the 627K or 701N mutation in their PB2 gene upon infection of ferrets, further enhancing their virulence and transmission in mammals. Our study indicates that the widespread dissemination of H9N2 viruses poses a threat to human health not only because of the potential of these viruses to cause an influenza pandemic, but also because they can function as “vehicles” to deliver different subtypes of influenza viruses from avian species to humans.
Author Summary
Avian influenza viruses continue to present challenges to human health. Recently the H7N9 and H10N8 viruses that are of low pathogenicity for poultry have caused human infections and deaths in China. H9N2 influenza virus have been isolated worldwide from wild and domestic avian species for several decades, and their low pathogenic nature to poultry made them a low priority for animal disease control, which has allowed them to continue to evolve and spread. Here, we investigated a series of H9N2 influenza viruses that were detected in live poultry markets in southern China. We found that these viruses are able to preferentially bind to the human-type receptor, and some of them can cause disease and transmit between ferrets by respiratory droplet. All the transmissible H9N2 viruses have a similar internal gene constellation, which was also present in the H7N9 and H10N8 viruses. Our study indicates that the widespread dissemination of H9N2 viruses poses a threat to human health not only because of the potential of these viruses to cause an influenza pandemic, but also because they can function as “vehicles” to deliver different subtypes of influenza viruses from avian species to humans.
PMCID: PMC4239090  PMID: 25411973
6.  Herpes Simplex Virus 1 UL47 Interacts with Viral Nuclear Egress Factors UL31, UL34, and Us3 and Regulates Viral Nuclear Egress 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(9):4657-4667.
Herpesviruses have evolved a unique mechanism for nuclear egress of nascent progeny nucleocapsids: the nucleocapsids bud through the inner nuclear membrane into the perinuclear space between the inner and outer nuclear membranes (primary envelopment), and enveloped nucleocapsids then fuse with the outer nuclear membrane to release nucleocapsids into the cytoplasm (de-envelopment). We have shown that the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) major virion structural protein UL47 (or VP13/VP14) is a novel regulator for HSV-1 nuclear egress. In particular, we demonstrated the following: (i) UL47 formed a complex(es) with HSV-1 proteins UL34, UL31, and/or Us3, which have all been reported to be critical for viral nuclear egress, and these viral proteins colocalized at the nuclear membrane in HSV-1-infected cells; (ii) the UL47-null mutation considerably reduced primary enveloped virions in the perinuclear space although capsids accumulated in the nucleus; and (iii) UL47 was detected in primary enveloped virions in the perinuclear space by immunoelectron microscopy. These results suggested that UL47 promoted HSV-1 primary envelopment, probably by interacting with the critical HSV-1 regulators for viral nuclear egress and by modulating their functions.
IMPORTANCE Like other herpesviruses, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) has evolved a vesicle-mediated nucleocytoplasmic transport mechanism for nuclear egress of nascent progeny nucleocapsids. Although previous reports identified and characterized several HSV-1 and cellular proteins involved in viral nuclear egress, complete details of HSV-1 nuclear egress remain to be elucidated. In this study, we have presented data suggesting (i) that the major HSV-1 virion structural protein UL47 (or VP13/VP14) formed a complex with known viral regulatory proteins critical for viral nuclear egress and (ii) that UL47 played a regulatory role in HSV-1 primary envelopment. Thus, we identified UL47 as a novel regulator for HSV-1 nuclear egress.
PMCID: PMC3993843  PMID: 24522907
7.  Identification of Amino Acid Changes That May Have Been Critical for the Genesis of A(H7N9) Influenza Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(9):4877-4896.
Novel influenza A viruses of the H7N9 subtype [A(H7N9)] emerged in the spring of 2013 in China and had infected 163 people as of 10 January 2014; 50 of them died of the severe respiratory infection caused by these viruses. Phylogenetic studies have indicated that the novel A(H7N9) viruses emerged from reassortment of H7, N9, and H9N2 viruses. Inspections of protein sequences from A(H7N9) viruses and their immediate predecessors revealed several amino acid changes in A(H7N9) viruses that may have facilitated transmission and replication in the novel host. Since mutations that occurred more ancestrally may also have contributed to the genesis of A(H7N9) viruses, we inferred historical evolutionary events leading to the novel viruses. We identified a number of amino acid changes on the evolutionary path to A(H7N9) viruses, including substitutions that may be associated with host range, replicative ability, and/or host responses to infection. The biological significance of these amino acid changes can be tested in future studies.
IMPORTANCE The novel influenza A viruses of the H7N9 subtype [A(H7N9)], which first emerged in the spring of 2013, cause severe respiratory infections in humans. Here, we performed a comprehensive evolutionary analysis of the progenitors of A(H7N9) viruses to identify amino acid changes that may have been critical for the emergence of A(H7N9) viruses and their ability to infect humans. We provide a list of potentially important amino acid changes that can be tested for their significance for the influenza virus host range, replicative ability, and/or host responses to infection.
PMCID: PMC3993844  PMID: 24522919
8.  The Host Protease TMPRSS2 Plays a Major Role in In Vivo Replication of Emerging H7N9 and Seasonal Influenza Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(10):5608-5616.
Proteolytic cleavage of the hemagglutinin (HA) protein is essential for influenza A virus (IAV) to acquire infectivity. This process is mediated by a host cell protease(s) in vivo. The type II transmembrane serine protease TMPRSS2 is expressed in the respiratory tract and is capable of activating a variety of respiratory viruses, including low-pathogenic (LP) IAVs possessing a single arginine residue at the cleavage site. Here we show that TMPRSS2 plays an essential role in the proteolytic activation of LP IAVs, including a recently emerged H7N9 subtype, in vivo. We generated TMPRSS2 knockout (KO) mice. The TMPRSS2 KO mice showed normal reproduction, development, and growth phenotypes. In TMPRSS2 KO mice infected with LP IAVs, cleavage of HA was severely impaired, and consequently, the majority of LP IAV progeny particles failed to gain infectivity, while the viruses were fully activated proteolytically in TMPRSS2+/+ wild-type (WT) mice. Accordingly, in contrast to WT mice, TMPRSS2 KO mice were highly tolerant of challenge infection by LP IAVs (H1N1, H3N2, and H7N9) with ≥1,000 50% lethal doses (LD50) for WT mice. On the other hand, a high-pathogenic H5N1 subtype IAV possessing a multibasic cleavage site was successfully activated in the lungs of TMPRSS2 KO mice and killed these mice, as observed for WT mice. Our results demonstrate that recently emerged H7N9 as well as seasonal IAVs mainly use the specific protease TMPRSS2 for HA cleavage in vivo and, thus, that TMPRSS2 expression is essential for IAV replication in vivo.
IMPORTANCE Influenza A virus (IAV) is a leading pathogen that infects and kills many humans every year. We clarified that the infectivity and pathogenicity of IAVs, including a recently emerged H7N9 subtype, are determined primarily by a host protease, TMPRSS2. Our data showed that TMPRSS2 is the key host protease that activates IAVs in vivo through proteolytic cleavage of their HA proteins. Hence, TMPRSS2 is a good target for the development of anti-IAV drugs. Such drugs could also be effective for many other respiratory viruses, including the recently emerged Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, because they are also activated by TMPRSS2 in vitro. Consequently, the present paper could have a large impact on the battle against respiratory virus infections and contribute greatly to human health.
PMCID: PMC4019123  PMID: 24600012
9.  Virulence-Affecting Amino Acid Changes in the PA Protein of H7N9 Influenza A Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(6):3127-3134.
Novel avian-origin influenza A(H7N9) viruses were first reported to infect humans in March 2013. To date, 143 human cases, including 45 deaths, have been recorded. By using sequence comparisons and phylogenetic and ancestral inference analyses, we identified several distinct amino acids in the A(H7N9) polymerase PA protein, some of which may be mammalian adapting. Mutant viruses possessing some of these amino acid changes, singly or in combination, were assessed for their polymerase activities and growth kinetics in mammalian and avian cells and for their virulence in mice. We identified several mutants that were slightly more virulent in mice than the wild-type A(H7N9) virus, A/Anhui/1/2013. These mutants also exhibited increased polymerase activity in human cells but not in avian cells. Our findings indicate that the PA protein of A(H7N9) viruses has several amino acid substitutions that are attenuating in mammals.
IMPORTANCE Novel avian-origin influenza A(H7N9) viruses emerged in the spring of 2013. By using computational analyses of A(H7N9) viral sequences, we identified several amino acid changes in the polymerase PA protein, which we then assessed for their effects on viral replication in cultured cells and mice. We found that the PA proteins of A(H7N9) viruses possess several amino acid substitutions that cause attenuation in mammals.
PMCID: PMC3957961  PMID: 24371069
10.  Structural basis for ebolavirus matrix assembly and budding; protein plasticity allows multiple functions 
Cell  2013;154(4):763-774.
Proteins, particularly viral proteins, can be multifunctional, but the mechanism(s) behind this trait are not fully understood. Here, we illustrate through multiple crystal structures, biochemistry and cellular microscopy that VP40 rearranges into different structures, each with a distinct function required for the ebolavirus life cycle. A butterfly-shaped VP40 dimer trafficks to the cellular membrane. There, electrostatic interactions trigger rearrangement of the polypeptide into a linear hexamer. These hexamers construct a multi-layered, filamentous matrix structure that is critical for budding and resembles tomograms of authentic virions. A third structure of VP40, formed by a different rearrangement, is not involved in virus assembly, but instead uniquely binds RNA to regulate viral transcription inside infected cells. These results provide a functional model for ebolavirus matrix assembly and the other roles of VP40 in the virus life cycle, and demonstrate how a single, wild-type, unmodified polypeptide can assemble into different structures for different functions.
PMCID: PMC4138722  PMID: 23953110
11.  A Novel Functional Site in the PB2 Subunit of Influenza A Virus Essential for Acetyl-CoA Interaction, RNA Polymerase Activity, and Viral Replication* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2014;289(36):24980-24994.
Background: The PB2 subunit of RNA polymerase of influenza virus has a novel site for acetyl-CoA interaction, which contains a valine/arginine/glycine (VRG) motif.
Results: A mutation in the VRG site inhibited acetyl-CoA interaction, RNA polymerase activity, and viral replication.
Conclusion: Acetyl-CoA interaction at the VRG site is potentially essential for viral replication.
Significance: The VRG site might be a novel target for drugs and vaccines.
The PA, PB1, and PB2 subunits, components of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of influenza A virus, are essential for viral transcription and replication. The PB2 subunit binds to the host RNA cap (7-methylguanosine triphosphate (m7GTP)) and supports the endonuclease activity of PA to “snatch” the cap from host pre-mRNAs. However, the structure of PB2 is not fully understood, and the functional sites remain unknown. In this study, we describe a novel Val/Arg/Gly (VRG) site in the PB2 cap-binding domain, which is involved in interaction with acetyl-CoA found in eukaryotic histone acetyltransferases (HATs). In vitro experiments revealed that the recombinant PB2 cap-binding domain that includes the VRG site interacts with acetyl-CoA; moreover, it was found that this interaction could be blocked by CoA and various HAT inhibitors. Interestingly, m7GTP also inhibited this interaction, suggesting that the same active pocket is capable of interacting with acetyl-CoA and m7GTP. To elucidate the importance of the VRG site on PB2 function and viral replication, we constructed a PB2 recombinant protein and recombinant viruses including several patterns of amino acid mutations in the VRG site. Substitutions of the valine and arginine residues or of all 3 residues of the VRG site to alanine significantly reduced the binding ability of PB2 to acetyl-CoA and its RNA polymerase activity. Recombinant viruses containing the same mutations could not be replicated in cultured cells. These results indicate that the PB2 VRG sequence is a functional site that is essential for acetyl-CoA interaction, RNA polymerase activity, and viral replication.
PMCID: PMC4155666  PMID: 25063805
Acetyl-coenzyme A (Acetyl-CoA); Influenza Virus; Negative-strand RNA Virus; Recombinant Protein Expression; RNA Polymerase
12.  Hemagglutinin Receptor Specificity and Structural Analyses of Respiratory Droplet-Transmissible H5N1 Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(1):768-773.
Two ferret-adapted H5N1 viruses capable of respiratory droplet transmission have been reported with mutations in the hemagglutinin receptor-binding site and stalk domains. Glycan microarray analysis reveals that both viruses exhibit a strong shift toward binding to “human-type” α2-6 sialosides but with notable differences in fine specificity. Crystal structure analysis further shows that the stalk mutation causes no obvious perturbation of the receptor-binding pocket, consistent with its impact on hemagglutinin stability without affecting receptor specificity.
PMCID: PMC3911709  PMID: 24173215
13.  Protective Efficacy of Passive Immunization with Monoclonal Antibodies in Animal Models of H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(6):e1004192.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses of the H5N1 subtype often cause severe pneumonia and multiple organ failure in humans, with reported case fatality rates of more than 60%. To develop a clinical antibody therapy, we generated a human-mouse chimeric monoclonal antibody (MAb) ch61 that showed strong neutralizing activity against H5N1 HPAI viruses isolated from humans and evaluated its protective potential in mouse and nonhuman primate models of H5N1 HPAI virus infections. Passive immunization with MAb ch61 one day before or after challenge with a lethal dose of the virus completely protected mice, and partial protection was achieved when mice were treated 3 days after the challenge. In a cynomolgus macaque model, reduced viral loads and partial protection against lethal infection were observed in macaques treated with MAb ch61 intravenously one and three days after challenge. Protective effects were also noted in macaques under immunosuppression. Though mutant viruses escaping from neutralization by MAb ch61 were recovered from macaques treated with this MAb alone, combined treatment with MAb ch61 and peramivir reduced the emergence of escape mutants. Our results indicate that antibody therapy might be beneficial in reducing viral loads and delaying disease progression during H5N1 HPAI virus infection in clinical cases and combined treatment with other antiviral compounds should improve the protective effects of antibody therapy against H5N1 HPAI virus infection.
Author Summary
The H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus has been circulating in poultry in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa since its first appearance in southern China in 1996. This virus occasionally infects humans with a high case mortality rate and poses a significant pandemic threat. Since neutralizing antibodies generally play a major role in protective immunity against influenza viruses, antibody therapy is a potential option for preventing highly lethal infection with the H5N1 virus in humans. Here we evaluated the protective potential of a human-mouse chimeric monoclonal antibody with strong neutralizing activity against H5N1 viruses in mouse and nonhuman primate models of lethal H5N1 virus infection. The therapeutic use of the neutralizing antibody resulted in reduced viral loads and improved survival in animals infected with highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses. It was noted that the protective effects were more prominent in immunosuppressed macaques, which might provide a model of protection against severe clinical disease in immunocompromised patients. In addition, combination therapy together with an antiviral drug reduced the selection of escape mutants. Collectively, this study suggests that antibody therapy may have beneficial effects in clinical cases of H5N1 HPAI virus infection in humans.
PMCID: PMC4055766  PMID: 24945244
14.  Configuration of Viral Ribonucleoprotein Complexes within the Influenza A Virion 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(23):12879-12884.
The influenza A virus possesses an eight-segmented, negative-sense, single-stranded RNA genome (vRNA). Each vRNA segment binds to multiple copies of viral nucleoproteins and a small number of heterotrimeric polymerase complexes to form a rod-like ribonucleoprotein complex (RNP), which is essential for the transcription and replication of the vRNAs. However, how the RNPs are organized within the progeny virion is not fully understood. Here, by focusing on polymerase complexes, we analyzed the fine structure of purified RNPs and their configuration within virions by using various electron microscopies (EM). We confirmed that the individual RNPs possess a single polymerase complex at one end of the rod-like structure and that, as determined using immune EM, some RNPs are incorporated into budding virions with their polymerase-binding ends at the budding tip, whereas others align with their polymerase-binding ends at the bottom of the virion. These data further our understanding of influenza virus virion morphogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3838143  PMID: 24067952
15.  The Cytoprotective Enzyme Heme Oxygenase-1 Suppresses Ebola Virus Replication 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(24):13795-13802.
Ebola virus (EBOV) is the causative agent of a severe hemorrhagic fever in humans with reported case fatality rates as high as 90%. There are currently no licensed vaccines or antiviral therapeutics to combat EBOV infections. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), an enzyme that catalyzes the rate-limiting step in heme degradation, has antioxidative properties and protects cells from various stresses. Activated HO-1 was recently shown to have antiviral activity, potently inhibiting the replication of viruses such as hepatitis C virus and human immunodeficiency virus. However, the effect of HO-1 activation on EBOV replication remains unknown. To determine whether the upregulation of HO-1 attenuates EBOV replication, we treated cells with cobalt protoporphyrin (CoPP), a selective HO-1 inducer, and assessed its effects on EBOV replication. We found that CoPP treatment, pre- and postinfection, significantly suppressed EBOV replication in a manner dependent upon HO-1 upregulation and activity. In addition, stable overexpression of HO-1 significantly attenuated EBOV growth. Although the exact mechanism behind the antiviral properties of HO-1 remains to be elucidated, our data show that HO-1 upregulation does not attenuate EBOV entry or budding but specifically targets EBOV transcription/replication. Therefore, modulation of the cellular enzyme HO-1 may represent a novel therapeutic strategy against EBOV infection.
PMCID: PMC3838215  PMID: 24109237
16.  Pathogenic Influenza Viruses and Coronaviruses Utilize Similar and Contrasting Approaches To Control Interferon-Stimulated Gene Responses 
mBio  2014;5(3):e01174-14.
The broad range and diversity of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) function to induce an antiviral state within the host, impeding viral pathogenesis. While successful respiratory viruses overcome individual ISG effectors, analysis of the global ISG response and subsequent viral antagonism has yet to be examined. Employing models of the human airway, transcriptomics and proteomics datasets were used to compare ISG response patterns following highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI) A virus, 2009 pandemic H1N1, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), and Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV (MERS-CoV) infection. The results illustrated distinct approaches utilized by each virus to antagonize the global ISG response. In addition, the data revealed that highly virulent HPAI virus and MERS-CoV induce repressive histone modifications, which downregulate expression of ISG subsets. Notably, influenza A virus NS1 appears to play a central role in this histone-mediated downregulation in highly pathogenic influenza strains. Together, the work demonstrates the existence of unique and common viral strategies for controlling the global ISG response and provides a novel avenue for viral antagonism via altered histone modifications.
This work combines systems biology and experimental validation to identify and confirm strategies used by viruses to control the immune response. Using a novel screening approach, specific comparison between highly pathogenic influenza viruses and coronaviruses revealed similarities and differences in strategies to control the interferon and innate immune response. These findings were subsequently confirmed and explored, revealing both a common pathway of antagonism via type I interferon (IFN) delay as well as a novel avenue for control by altered histone modification. Together, the data highlight how comparative systems biology analysis can be combined with experimental validation to derive novel insights into viral pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4030454  PMID: 24846384
17.  Imaging of influenza virus sialidase activity in living cells 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:4877.
Influenza virus is rich in variation and mutations. It would be very convenient for virus detection and isolation to histochemically detect viral infection regardless of variation and mutations. Here, we established a histochemical imaging assay for influenza virus sialidase activity in living cells by using a new fluorescent sialidase substrate, 2-(benzothiazol-2-yl)-4-bromophenyl 5-acetamido-3,5-dideoxy-α-D-glycero-D-galacto-2-nonulopyranosidonic acid (BTP3-Neu5Ac). The BTP3-Neu5Ac assay histochemically visualized influenza virus-infected cells regardless of viral hosts and subtypes. Influenza virus neuraminidase-expressed cells, viral focus formation, and virus-infected locations in mice lung tissues were easily, rapidly, and sensitively detected by the BTP3-Neu5Ac assay. Histochemical visualization with the BTP3-Neu5Ac assay is extremely useful for detection of influenza viruses without the need for fixation or a specific antibody. This novel assay should greatly improve the efficiency of detection, titration, and isolation of influenza viruses and might contribute to research on viral sialidase.
PMCID: PMC4007088  PMID: 24786761
18.  The Genome-Packaging Signal of the Influenza A Virus Genome Comprises a Genome Incorporation Signal and a Genome-Bundling Signal 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(21):11316-11322.
The influenza A virus genome comprises eight single-stranded negative-sense RNA segments (vRNAs). All eight vRNAs are selectively packaged into each progeny virion via so-called segment-specific genome-packaging signal sequences that are located in the noncoding and terminal coding regions of both the 3′ and the 5′ ends of the vRNAs. However, it remains unclear how these signals ensure that eight different vRNAs are packaged. Here, by using a reverse genetics system, we demonstrated that, in the absence of the other seven vRNAs, a recombinant NP vRNA bearing only a reporter gene flanked by the noncoding NP regions was incorporated into virus-like particles (VLPs) as efficiently as a recombinant NP vRNA bearing the reporter gene flanked by the complete NP packaging signals (i.e., the noncoding sequences and the terminal coding regions). Viruses that comprised a recombinant NP vRNA whose packaging signal was disrupted, and the remaining seven authentic vRNAs, did not undergo multiple cycles of replication; however, a recombinant NP vRNA with only the noncoding regions was readily incorporated into VLPs, suggesting that the packaging signal as currently defined is not necessarily essential for the packaging of the vRNA in which it resides; rather, it is required for the packaging of the full set of vRNAs. We propose that the 3′ and 5′ noncoding regions of each vRNA bear a virion incorporation signal for that vRNA and that the terminal coding regions serve as a bundling signal that ensures the incorporation of the complete set of eight vRNAs into the virion.
PMCID: PMC3807325  PMID: 23926345
19.  Modified vaccinia virus Ankara expressing the hemagglutinin of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus induces cross-protective immunity against Eurasian ‘avian-like’ H1N1 swine viruses in mice 
To examine cross-reactivity between hemagglutinin (HA) derived from A/California/7/09 (CA/09) virus and that derived from representative Eurasian “avian-like” (EA) H1N1 swine viruses isolated in Italy between 1999 and 2008 during virological surveillance in pigs.
Modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) expressing the HA gene of CA/09 virus (MVA-HA-CA/09) was used as a vaccine to investigate cross-protective immunity against H1N1 swine viruses in mice.
Two classical swine H1N1 (CS) viruses and four representative EA-like H1N1 swine viruses previously isolated during outbreaks of respiratory disease in pigs on farms in Northern Italy were used in this study.
Female C57BL/6 mice were vaccinated with MVA/HA/CA/09 and then challenged intranasally with H1N1 swine viruses.
Main outcome measures
Cross-reactive antibody responses were determined by hemagglutination- inhibition (HI) and virus microneutralizing (MN) assays of sera from MVA-vaccinated mice. The extent of protective immunity against infection with H1N1 swine viruses was determined by measuring lung viral load on days 2 and 4 post-challenge.
Results and Conclusions
Systemic immunization of mice with CA/09-derived HA, vectored by MVA, elicited cross-protective immunity against recent EA-like swine viruses. This immune protection was related to the levels of cross-reactive HI antibodies in the sera of the immunized mice and was dependent on the similarity of the antigenic site Sa of H1 HAs. Our findings suggest that the herd immunity elicited in humans by the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus could limit the transmission of recent EA-like swine HA genes into the influenza A virus gene pool in humans.
PMCID: PMC4181486  PMID: 24373385
Avian-like; cross-protection; hemagglutinin; influenza; pandemic (H1N1) 2009; transmission
20.  Selection on hemagglutinin imposes a bottleneck during mammalian transmission of reassortant H5N1 influenza viruses 
Nature communications  2013;4:10.1038/ncomms3636.
The emergence of human-transmissible H5N1 avian influenza viruses poses a major pandemic threat. H5N1 viruses are thought to be highly genetically diverse both among and within hosts, but the effects of this diversity on viral replication and transmission are poorly understood. Here we use deep sequencing to investigate the impact of within-host viral variation on adaptation and transmission of H5N1 viruses in ferrets. We show that although within-host genetic diversity in hemagglutinin (HA) increases during replication in inoculated ferrets, HA diversity is dramatically reduced upon respiratory droplet transmission, where infection is established by only 1–2 distinct HA segments from a diverse source virus population in transmitting animals. Moreover, minor HA variants present in as little as 5.9% of viruses within the source animal become dominant in ferrets infected via respiratory droplets. These findings demonstrate that selective pressures acting during influenza virus transmission among mammals impose a significant bottleneck.
PMCID: PMC3845350  PMID: 24149915
21.  H6 Influenza Viruses Pose a Potential Threat to Human Health 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(8):3953-3964.
Influenza viruses of the H6 subtype have been isolated from wild and domestic aquatic and terrestrial avian species throughout the world since their first detection in a turkey in Massachusetts in 1965. Since 1997, H6 viruses with different neuraminidase (NA) subtypes have been detected frequently in the live poultry markets of southern China. Although sequence information has been gathered over the last few years, the H6 viruses have not been fully biologically characterized. To investigate the potential risk posed by H6 viruses to humans, here we assessed the receptor-binding preference, replication, and transmissibility in mammals of a series of H6 viruses isolated from live poultry markets in southern China from 2008 to 2011. Among the 257 H6 strains tested, 87 viruses recognized the human type receptor. Genome sequence analysis of 38 representative H6 viruses revealed 30 different genotypes, indicating that these viruses are actively circulating and reassorting in nature. Thirty-seven of 38 viruses tested in mice replicated efficiently in the lungs and some caused mild disease; none, however, were lethal. We also tested the direct contact transmission of 10 H6 viruses in guinea pigs and found that 5 viruses did not transmit to the contact animals, 3 viruses transmitted to one of the three contact animals, and 2 viruses transmitted to all three contact animals. Our study demonstrates that the H6 avian influenza viruses pose a clear threat to human health and emphasizes the need for continued surveillance and evaluation of the H6 influenza viruses circulating in nature.
IMPORTANCE Avian influenza viruses continue to present a challenge to human health. Research and pandemic preparedness have largely focused on the H5 and H7 subtype influenza viruses in recent years. Influenza viruses of the H6 subtype have been isolated from wild and domestic aquatic and terrestrial avian species throughout the world since their first detection in the United States in 1965. Since 1997, H6 viruses have been detected frequently in the live poultry markets of southern China; however, the biological characterization of these viruses is very limited. Here, we assessed the receptor-binding preference, replication, and transmissibility in mammals of a series of H6 viruses isolated from live poultry markets in southern China and found that 34% of the viruses are able to bind human type receptors and that some of them are able to transmit efficiently to contact animals. Our study demonstrates that the H6 viruses pose a clear threat to human health.
PMCID: PMC3993743  PMID: 24501418
22.  Characterization of H7N9 influenza A viruses isolated from humans 
Nature  2013;501(7468):551-555.
Avian influenza A viruses rarely infect humans, but if they do and transmit among them, worldwide outbreaks (pandemics) can result. The recent sporadic infections of humans in China with a previously unrecognized avian influenza A virus of the H7N9 subtype (A(H7N9)) have caused concern due to the appreciable case fatality rate associated with these infections (>25%), potential instances of human-to-human transmission1, and the lack of pre-existing immunity among humans to viruses of this subtype. Here, we therefore characterized two early human A(H7N9) isolates, A/Anhui/1/2013 and A/Shanghai/1/2013 (H7N9; hereafter referred to as Anhui/1 and Shanghai/1, respectively). In mice, Anhui/1 and Shanghai/1 were more pathogenic than a control avian H7N9 virus (A/duck/Gunma/466/2011; H7N9; Dk/GM466) and a representative pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus (A/California/04/2009; H1N1; CA04). Anhui/1, Shanghai/1, and Dk/GM466 replicated well in the nasal turbinates of ferrets. In nonhuman primates (NHPs), Anhui/1 and Dk/GM466 replicated efficiently in the upper and lower respiratory tracts, whereas the replicative ability of conventional human influenza viruses is typically restricted to the upper respiratory tract of infected primates. By contrast, Anhui/1 did not replicate well in miniature pigs upon intranasal inoculation. Most critically, Anhui/1 transmitted via respiratory droplets in one of three pairs of ferrets. Glycan arrays demonstrated that Anhui/1, Shanghai/1, and A/Hangzhou/1/2013 (a third human A(H7N9) virus tested in this assay) bind to human virus-type receptors, a property that may be critical for virus transmissibility in ferrets. Anhui/1 was less sensitive than a pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus to neuraminidase inhibitors, although both viruses were equally susceptible to an experimental antiviral polymerase inhibitor. The robust replicative ability in mice, ferrets, and NHPs and the limited transmissibility in ferrets of Anhui/1 suggest that A(H7N9) viruses have pandemic potential.
PMCID: PMC3891892  PMID: 23842494
23.  DNA Topoisomerase 1 Facilitates the Transcription and Replication of the Ebola Virus Genome 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(16):8862-8869.
Ebola virus (EBOV) protein L (EBOL) acts as a viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. To better understand the mechanisms underlying the transcription and replication of the EBOV genome, we sought to identify cellular factors involved in these processes via their coimmunoprecipitation with EBOL and by mass spectrometry. Of 65 candidate proteins identified, we focused on DNA topoisomerase 1 (TOP1), which localizes to the nucleus and unwinds helical DNA. We found that in the presence of EBOL, TOP1 colocalizes and interacts with EBOL in the cytoplasm, where transcription and replication of the EBOV genome occur. Knockdown of TOP1 markedly reduced virus replication and viral polymerase activity. We also found that the phosphodiester bridge-cleaving and recombination activities of TOP1 are required for the polymerase activity of EBOL. These results demonstrate that TOP1 is an important cellular factor for the transcription and replication of the EBOV genome and, as such, plays a key role in the EBOV life cycle.
PMCID: PMC3754039  PMID: 23658456
25.  A Syrian Golden Hamster Model Recapitulating Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;207(2):306-318.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is a severe viral infection for which no effective treatment or vaccine is currently available. While the nonhuman primate (NHP) model is used for final evaluation of experimental vaccines and therapeutic efficacy, rodent models have been widely used in ebolavirus research because of their convenience. However, the validity of rodent models has been questioned given their low predictive value for efficacy testing of vaccines and therapeutics, a result of the inconsistent manifestation of coagulopathy seen in EHF. Here, we describe a lethal Syrian hamster model of EHF using mouse-adapted Ebola virus. Infected hamsters displayed most clinical hallmarks of EHF, including severe coagulopathy and uncontrolled host immune responses. Thus, the hamster seems to be superior to the existing rodent models, offering a better tool for understanding the critical processes in pathogenesis and providing a new model for evaluating prophylactic and postexposure interventions prior to testing in NHPs.
PMCID: PMC3532827  PMID: 23045629
ebolavirus; Ebola hemorrhagic fever; animal model; pathogenesis; coagulopathy

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