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1.  Cytoplasmic Viral RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase Disrupts the Intracellular Splicing Machinery by Entering the Nucleus and Interfering with Prp8 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(6):e1004199.
The primary role of cytoplasmic viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) is viral genome replication in the cellular cytoplasm. However, picornaviral RdRp denoted 3D polymerase (3Dpol) also enters the host nucleus, where its function remains unclear. In this study, we describe a novel mechanism of viral attack in which 3Dpol enters the nucleus through the nuclear localization signal (NLS) and targets the pre-mRNA processing factor 8 (Prp8) to block pre-mRNA splicing and mRNA synthesis. The fingers domain of 3Dpol associates with the C-terminal region of Prp8, which contains the Jab1/MPN domain, and interferes in the second catalytic step, resulting in the accumulation of the lariat form of the splicing intermediate. Endogenous pre-mRNAs trapped by the Prp8-3Dpol complex in enterovirus-infected cells were identified and classed into groups associated with cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation. Our results suggest that picornaviral RdRp disrupts pre-mRNA splicing processes, that differs from viral protease shutting off cellular transcription and translation which contributes to the pathogenesis of viral infection.
Author Summary
RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) is an enzyme that catalyzes the replication from an RNA template and is encoded in the genomes of all RNA viruses. RNA viruses in general replicate in cytoplasm and interfere host cellular gene expression by utilizing proteolytic destruction of cellular targets as the primary mechanism. However, several cytoplasmic RNA viral proteins have been found in the nucleus. What do they do in the nucleus? This study utilized picornaviral polymerase to probe the function of RdRp in the nucleus. Our findings reveal a novel mechanism of viruses attacking hosts whereby picornaviral 3D polymerase (3Dpol) enters the nucleus and targets the central pre-mRNA processing factor 8 (Prp8) to block pre-mRNA splicing and mRNA synthesis. The 3Dpol inhibits the second catalytic step of the splicing process, resulting in the accumulation of the lariat-form and the reduction of the mRNA. These results provide new insights into the strategy of a cytoplasmic RNA virus attacking host cell, that differs from viral shutting off cellular transcription and translation which contributes to the viral pathogenesis. To our knowledge, this study shows for the first time that a cytoplasmic RNA virus uses its polymerase to alter cellular gene expression by hijacking the splicing machinery.
PMCID: PMC4072778  PMID: 24968230
2.  A Mouse Model for Betacoronavirus Subgroup 2c Using a Bat Coronavirus Strain HKU5 Variant 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00047-14.
Cross-species transmission of zoonotic coronaviruses (CoVs) can result in pandemic disease outbreaks. Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV (MERS-CoV), identified in 2012, has caused 182 cases to date, with ~43% mortality, and no small animal model has been reported. MERS-CoV and Pipistrellus bat coronavirus (BtCoV) strain HKU5 of Betacoronavirus (β-CoV) subgroup 2c share >65% identity at the amino acid level in several regions, including nonstructural protein 5 (nsp5) and the nucleocapsid (N) protein, which are significant drug and vaccine targets. BtCoV HKU5 has been described in silico but has not been shown to replicate in culture, thus hampering drug and vaccine studies against subgroup 2c β-CoVs. We report the synthetic reconstruction and testing of BtCoV HKU5 containing the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV spike (S) glycoprotein ectodomain (BtCoV HKU5-SE). This virus replicates efficiently in cell culture and in young and aged mice, where the virus targets airway and alveolar epithelial cells. Unlike some subgroup 2b SARS-CoV vaccines that elicit a strong eosinophilia following challenge, we demonstrate that BtCoV HKU5 and MERS-CoV N-expressing Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus replicon particle (VRP) vaccines do not cause extensive eosinophilia following BtCoV HKU5-SE challenge. Passage of BtCoV HKU5-SE in young mice resulted in enhanced virulence, causing 20% weight loss, diffuse alveolar damage, and hyaline membrane formation in aged mice. Passaged virus was characterized by mutations in the nsp13, nsp14, open reading frame 5 (ORF5) and M genes. Finally, we identified an inhibitor active against the nsp5 proteases of subgroup 2c β-CoVs. Synthetic-genome platforms capable of reconstituting emerging zoonotic viral pathogens or their phylogenetic relatives provide new strategies for identifying broad-based therapeutics, evaluating vaccine outcomes, and studying viral pathogenesis.
The 2012 outbreak of MERS-CoV raises the specter of another global epidemic, similar to the 2003 SARS-CoV epidemic. MERS-CoV is related to BtCoV HKU5 in target regions that are essential for drug and vaccine testing. Because no small animal model exists to evaluate MERS-CoV pathogenesis or to test vaccines, we constructed a recombinant BtCoV HKU5 that expressed a region of the SARS-CoV spike (S) glycoprotein, thereby allowing the recombinant virus to grow in cell culture and in mice. We show that this recombinant virus targets airway epithelial cells and causes disease in aged mice. We use this platform to (i) identify a broad-spectrum antiviral that can potentially inhibit viruses closely related to MERS-CoV, (ii) demonstrate the absence of increased eosinophilic immune pathology for MERS-CoV N protein-based vaccines, and (iii) mouse adapt this virus to identify viral genetic determinants of cross-species transmission and virulence. This study holds significance as a strategy to control newly emerging viruses.
PMCID: PMC3977350  PMID: 24667706
3.  Influenza A Virus Assembly Intermediates Fuse in the Cytoplasm 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(3):e1003971.
Reassortment of influenza viral RNA (vRNA) segments in co-infected cells can lead to the emergence of viruses with pandemic potential. Replication of influenza vRNA occurs in the nucleus of infected cells, while progeny virions bud from the plasma membrane. However, the intracellular mechanics of vRNA assembly into progeny virions is not well understood. Here we used recent advances in microscopy to explore vRNA assembly and transport during a productive infection. We visualized four distinct vRNA segments within a single cell using fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) and observed that foci containing more than one vRNA segment were found at the external nuclear periphery, suggesting that vRNA segments are not exported to the cytoplasm individually. Although many cytoplasmic foci contain multiple vRNA segments, not all vRNA species are present in every focus, indicating that assembly of all eight vRNA segments does not occur prior to export from the nucleus. To extend the observations made in fixed cells, we used a virus that encodes GFP fused to the viral polymerase acidic (PA) protein (WSN PA-GFP) to explore the dynamics of vRNA assembly in live cells during a productive infection. Since WSN PA-GFP colocalizes with viral nucleoprotein and influenza vRNA segments, we used it as a surrogate for visualizing vRNA transport in 3D and at high speed by inverted selective-plane illumination microscopy. We observed cytoplasmic PA-GFP foci colocalizing and traveling together en route to the plasma membrane. Our data strongly support a model in which vRNA segments are exported from the nucleus as complexes that assemble en route to the plasma membrane through dynamic colocalization events in the cytoplasm.
Author Summary
Influenza A viruses, containing eight single stranded RNA segments, cause seasonal epidemics and occasional pandemics. Reassortment of the influenza viral genome in co-infected cells confers an evolutionary advantage for the virus, and can result in viruses with pandemic potential like the 2009 pandemic H1N1 and 2013 H7N9 virus. Replication of the viral genome occurs in the nucleus of the host cell and the progeny viral RNA (vRNA) segments must be transported to the plasma membrane for budding. The dynamics of vRNA assembly into progeny virions remains unknown. We used novel techniques to visualize the 3D-localization of four distinct vRNA segments in an infected cell and a fluorescent virus to visualize vRNA transport during a productive infection to determine where, when and how assembly occurs. Our data suggest that vRNA segments are exported from the nucleus as subcomplexes that undergo additional assembly en route to the plasma membrane through dynamic fusion events of vRNA-containing cytoplasmic foci. These observations have broad implications for understanding the intracellular requirements behind reassortment of influenza viruses and may lead to the development of new antiviral targets.
PMCID: PMC3946384  PMID: 24603687
4.  Regulatory B Cell (B10 Cell) Expansion During Listeria Infection Governs Innate and Cellular Immune Responses In Mice 
Pathogens use numerous methods to subvert host immune responses, including the modulation of host IL-10 production by diverse cell types. However, the B cell sources of IL-10 and their overall influence on innate and cellular immune responses have not been well characterized during infections. Using Listeria as a model pathogen, infection drove the acute expansion of a small subset of regulatory B cells (B10 cells) that potently suppress inflammation and autoimmunity through the production of IL-10. Unexpectedly, spleen bacteria loads were 92–97% lower in B10 cell-deficient CD19−/− mice, in mice depleted of mature B cells, and in mice treated with CD22 mAb to preferentially deplete B10 cells before infection. By contrast, the adoptive transfer of wild type B10 cells reduced bacterial clearance by 38-fold in CD19−/− mice through IL-10-dependent pathways. B10 cell depletion using CD22 mAb significantly enhanced macrophage phagocytosis of Listeria and their production of IFN-γ, TNF-α, and nitric oxide ex vivo. Accelerated bacteria clearance following B10 cell depletion significantly reduced Ag-specific CD4+ T cell proliferation and cytokine production, but did not alter CD8+ T cell responses. B10 cell regulatory function during innate immune responses was nonetheless dependent on cognate interactions with CD4+ T cells since B10 cells deficient in IL-10, MHC-II or IL-21 receptor expression did not influence Listeria clearance. Thus, Listeria manipulates immune responses through a strategy of immune evasion that involves the preferential expansion of endogenous B10 cells that regulate the magnitude and duration of both innate and cellular immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3552111  PMID: 23275601
B cells; Listeria monocytogenes; innate immunity; regulatory B cells; B10 cells
6.  Dendritic Cell Immunoreceptor Regulates Chikungunya Virus Pathogenesis in Mice 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(10):5697-5706.
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-borne alphavirus responsible for recent epidemic outbreaks of debilitating disease in humans. Alphaviruses are known to interact with members of the C-type lectin receptor family of pattern recognition proteins, and given that the dendritic cell immunoreceptor (DCIR) is known to act as a negative regulator of the host inflammatory response and has previously been associated with rheumatoid arthritis, we evaluated DCIR's role in response to CHIKV infection. Although we observed an increase in the proportion of dendritic cells at the site of CHIKV infection at 24 to 36 h postinfection, these cells showed decreased cell surface DCIR, suggestive of DCIR triggering and internalization. In vitro, bone marrow-derived dendritic cells from DCIR-deficient (DCIR−/−) mice exhibited altered cytokine expression following exposure to CHIKV. DCIR−/− mice exhibited more severe disease signs than wild-type C57BL6/J mice following CHIKV infection, including a more rapid and more severe onset of virus-induced edema and enhanced weight loss. Histological examination revealed that DCIR-deficient animals exhibited increased inflammation and damage in both the fascia of the inoculated foot and the ankle joint, and DCIR deficiency skewed the CHIKV-induced cytokine response at the site of infection at multiple times postinfection. Early differences in virus-induced disease between C57BL6/J and DCIR−/− mice were independent of viral replication, while extended viral replication correlated with enhanced foot swelling and tissue inflammation and damage in DCIR−/− compared to C57BL6/J mice at 6 to 7 days postinfection. These results suggest that DCIR plays a protective role in limiting the CHIKV-induced inflammatory response and subsequent tissue and joint damage.
PMCID: PMC3648201  PMID: 23487448
7.  DDX24 Negatively Regulates Cytosolic RNA-Mediated Innate Immune Signaling 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003721.
RIG-I-Like Receptors (RLRs) sense cytosolic viral RNA to transiently activate type I IFN production. Here, we report that a type I IFN inducible DExD/H helicase, DDX24, exerts a negative-regulatory effect on RLR function. Expression of DDX24 specifically suppressed RLR activity, while DDX24 loss, which caused embryonic lethality, augmented cytosolic RNA-mediated innate signaling and facilitated RNA virus replication. DDX24 preferentially bound to RNA rather than DNA species and influenced signaling by associating with adaptor proteins FADD and RIP1. These events preferentially impeded IRF7 activity, an essential transcription factor for type I IFN production. Our data provide a new function for DDX24 and help explain innate immune gene regulation, mechanisms that may additionally provide insight into the causes of inflammatory disease.
Author Summary
Innate immunity is the first and most rapid host defense against virus infection. Viral RNAs, which are generated during RNA virus replication in host cells, can be recognized through RIG-I-Like Receptors (RLRs) to transiently produce type I interferon, which further induce abundant interferon stimulated genes (ISGs) to clear viral infection. However, uncontrolled innate immune responses cause inflammatory diseases that are detrimental to the host. Therefore, a balanced innate immune response is critical to maintain homeostasis of the host. Thus, RLR signaling is tightly regulated by both positive and negative regulators. DDX24, a helicase reported in this study, is an ISG that exerts an inhibitory effect on RLR dependent signaling. DDX24 hijacked adaptor proteins FADD and RIP1 in host cells to suppress viral RNA dependent interferon production and facilitated RNA virus replication in certain cells. Moreover, DDX24 deficient mouse embryos exerted early embryonic lethality, suggesting an important role for this helicase, perhaps in addition to regulating RLR signaling. In all, our results elucidate the role of DDX24 in RLR dependent signaling, and may shed light on innate immune gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC3814876  PMID: 24204270
8.  Identification of Immune and Viral Correlates of Norovirus Protective Immunity through Comparative Study of Intra-Cluster Norovirus Strains 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(9):e1003592.
Whether or not primary norovirus infections induce protective immunity has become a controversial issue, potentially confounded by the comparison of data from genetically distinct norovirus strains. Early human volunteer studies performed with a norovirus-positive inoculum initially led to the conclusion that primary infection does not generate long-term, protective immunity. More recently though, the epidemiological pattern of norovirus pandemics has led to the extrapolation that primary norovirus infection induces herd immunity. While these are seemingly discordant observations, they may in fact reflect virus strain-, cluster-, or genogroup-specific differences in protective immunity induction. Here, we report that highly genetically related intra-cluster murine norovirus strains differ dramatically in their ability to induce a protective immune response: Primary MNV-3 infection induced robust and cross-reactive protection, whereas primary MNV-1 infection induced modest homotypic and no heterotypic protection. In addition to this fundamental observation that intra-cluster norovirus strains display remarkable differences in protective immunity induction, we report three additional important observations relevant to norovirus:host interactions. First, antibody and CD4+ T cells are essential to controlling secondary norovirus infections. Second, the viral minor structural protein VP2 regulates the maturation of antigen presenting cells and protective immunity induction in a virus strain-specific manner, pointing to a mechanism by which MNV-1 may prevent the stimulation of memory immune responses. Third, VF1-mediated regulation of cytokine induction also correlates with protective immunity induction. Thus, two highly genetically-related norovirus strains displayed striking differences in induction of protective immune responses, strongly suggesting that the interpretation of norovirus immunity and vaccine studies must consider potential virus strain-specific effects. Moreover, we have identified immune (antibody and CD4+ T cells) and viral (VP2 and possibly VF1) correlates of norovirus protective immunity. These findings have significant implications for our understanding of norovirus immunity during primary infections as well as the development of new norovirus vaccines.
Author Summary
Human noroviruses are a significant cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks worldwide and likely the leading cause of severe childhood diarrhea. An efficacious norovirus vaccine would have a major impact on human health but will undoubtedly be confounded by several roadblocks. First, the norovirus genus is highly genetically, and potentially antigenically, diverse. Second, it is currently unclear whether human noroviruses elicit lasting protective immunity upon natural infection. Here, we test the hypothesis that noroviruses display virus strain-specific differences in their stimulation of protective immunity. Indeed, our results reveal that two highly genetically related murine norovirus strains differ dramatically in their stimulation of protective immune responses. Moreover, we demonstrate that antibody and CD4+ T cells are absolutely essential to protecting from a secondary norovirus infection. Finally, we have revealed two viral correlates of protective immunity induction – VF1-mediated cytokine antagonism and VP2-dependent inhibition of antigen presenting cell maturation. Collectively, this information not only offers a potential explanation for the seemingly discordant results regarding human norovirus protective immunity but it also brings to light a previously unrecognized complexity in developing an efficacious human norovirus vaccine – individual virus strains may differ significantly in their interactions with the host immune system and thus in their immunogenicity.
PMCID: PMC3764223  PMID: 24039576
9.  Real-Time Whole-Body Visualization of Chikungunya Virus Infection and Host Interferon Response in Zebrafish 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(9):e1003619.
Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV), a re-emerging arbovirus that may cause severe disease, constitutes an important public health problem. Herein we describe a novel CHIKV infection model in zebrafish, where viral spread was live-imaged in the whole body up to cellular resolution. Infected cells emerged in various organs in one principal wave with a median appearance time of ∼14 hours post infection. Timing of infected cell death was organ dependent, leading to a shift of CHIKV localization towards the brain. As in mammals, CHIKV infection triggered a strong type-I interferon (IFN) response, critical for survival. IFN was mainly expressed by neutrophils and hepatocytes. Cell type specific ablation experiments further demonstrated that neutrophils play a crucial, unexpected role in CHIKV containment. Altogether, our results show that the zebrafish represents a novel valuable model to dynamically visualize replication, pathogenesis and host responses to a human virus.
Author Summary
Chikungunya, a re-emerging disease caused by a mosquito-transmitted virus, is an important public health problem. We developed a zebrafish model for chikungunya virus infection. For the first time, rise and death of virus-infected cells could be live imaged in the entire body of a vertebrate. We observed a widespread wave of apparition of newly infected cells during the first day after inoculation of the virus. We then found that infected cells died at a strongly organ-dependent rate, accounting for the progressive shift of virus localization. Notably, the virus persisted in the brain despite apparent recovery of infected zebrafish. We found this recovery to be critically dependent on the host type I interferon response. Surprisingly, we identified neutrophils as a major cell population expressing interferon and controlling chikungunya virus.
PMCID: PMC3764224  PMID: 24039582
10.  The Viral Interferon Regulatory Factors of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Differ in Their Inhibition of Interferon Activation Mediated by Toll-Like Receptor 3 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(2):798-806.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) infection is correlated with three human malignancies and can establish lifelong latent infection in multiple cell types within its human host. In order to establish and maintain infection, KSHV utilizes multiple mechanisms to evade the host immune response. One such mechanism is the expression of a family of genes with homology to cellular interferon (IFN) regulatory factors (IRFs), known as viral IRFs (vIRFs). We demonstrate here that KSHV vIRF1, -2, and -3 have a differential ability to block type I interferon signaling mediated by Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3), a receptor we have previously shown to be activated upon KSHV infection. vIRF1, -2, and -3 inhibited TLR3-driven activation of IFN transcription reporters. However, only vIRF1 and vIRF2 inhibited increases in both IFN-β message and protein levels following TLR3 activation. The expression of vIRF1 and vIRF2 also allowed for increased replication of a virus known to activate TLR3 signaling. Furthermore, vIRF1 and vIRF2 may block TLR3-mediated signaling via different mechanisms. Altogether, this report indicates that vIRFs are able to block IFN mediated by TLRs but that each vIRF has a unique function and mechanism for blocking antiviral IFN responses.
PMCID: PMC3554052  PMID: 23115281
11.  Development of a Highly Protective Combination Monoclonal Antibody Therapy against Chikungunya Virus 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(4):e1003312.
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that causes global epidemics of a debilitating polyarthritis in humans. As there is a pressing need for the development of therapeutic agents, we screened 230 new mouse anti-CHIKV monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) for their ability to inhibit infection of all three CHIKV genotypes. Four of 36 neutralizing MAbs (CHK-102, CHK-152, CHK-166, and CHK-263) provided complete protection against lethality as prophylaxis in highly susceptible immunocompromised mice lacking the type I IFN receptor (Ifnar−/−) and mapped to distinct epitopes on the E1 and E2 structural proteins. CHK-152, the most protective MAb, was humanized, shown to block viral fusion, and require Fc effector function for optimal activity in vivo. In post-exposure therapeutic trials, administration of a single dose of a combination of two neutralizing MAbs (CHK-102+CHK-152 or CHK-166+CHK-152) limited the development of resistance and protected immunocompromised mice against disease when given 24 to 36 hours before CHIKV-induced death. Selected pairs of highly neutralizing MAbs may be a promising treatment option for CHIKV in humans.
Author Summary
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that causes outbreaks of polyarthritis in humans, and is currently a threat to spread to the United States due to the presence of its mosquito vector, Aedes albopictus. At present, there is no licensed human vaccine or therapeutic available to protect against CHIKV infection. The primary goal of this study was to develop an antibody-based therapeutic agent against CHIKV. To do this, we developed a panel of 230 new mouse anti-CHIKV MAbs and tested them for their ability to neutralize infection of different CHIKV strains in cell culture. We identified 36 MAbs with broad neutralizing activity, and then tested several of these for their ability to protect immunocompromised Ifnar−/− mice against lethal CHIKV infection. In post-exposure therapeutic trials, administration of a single dose of a combination of two neutralizing MAbs limited the development of resistance and protected Ifnar−/− mice against disease even when given just 24 to 36 hours before CHIKV-induced death. Analogous protection against CHIKV-induced arthritis was seen in a disease model in wild type mice. Our data suggest that pairs of highly neutralizing MAbs may be a therapeutic option against CHIKV infection.
PMCID: PMC3630103  PMID: 23637602
12.  Myd88-Dependent Toll-Like Receptor 7 Signaling Mediates Protection from Severe Ross River Virus-Induced Disease in Mice 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(19):10675-10685.
Arthralgia-associated alphaviruses, including chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and Ross River virus (RRV), pose significant public health threats because of their ability to cause explosive outbreaks of debilitating arthralgia and myalgia in human populations. Although the host inflammatory response is known to contribute to the pathogenesis of alphavirus-induced arthritis and myositis, the role that Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which are major regulators of host antiviral and inflammatory responses, play in the pathogenesis of alphavirus-induced arthritis and myositis has not been extensively studied. Using a mouse model of RRV-induced myositis/arthritis, we found that myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (Myd88)-dependent TLR7 signaling is involved in protection from severe RRV-associated disease. Infections of Myd88- and TLR7-deficient mouse strains with RRV revealed that both Myd88 and TLR7 significantly contributed to protection from RRV-induced mortality, and both mouse strains exhibited more severe tissue damage than wild-type (WT) mice following RRV infection. While viral loads were unchanged in either Myd88 or TLR7 knockout mice compared to WT mice at early times postinfection, both Myd88 and TLR7 knockout mice exhibited higher viral loads than WT mice at late times postinfection. Furthermore, while high levels of RRV-specific antibody were produced in TLR7-deficient mice, this antibody had very little neutralizing activity and had lower affinity than WT antibody. Additionally, TLR7- and Myd88-deficient mice showed defects in germinal center activity, suggesting that TLR7-dependent signaling is critical for the development of protective antibody responses against RRV.
PMCID: PMC3457316  PMID: 22837203
13.  Hantavirus-infection Confers Resistance to Cytotoxic Lymphocyte-Mediated Apoptosis 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(3):e1003272.
Hantaviruses cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and hantavirus cardio-pulmonary syndrome (HCPS; also called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)), both human diseases with high case-fatality rates. Endothelial cells are the main targets for hantaviruses. An intriguing observation in patients with HFRS and HCPS is that on one hand the virus infection leads to strong activation of CD8 T cells and NK cells, on the other hand no obvious destruction of infected endothelial cells is observed. Here, we provide an explanation for this dichotomy by showing that hantavirus-infected endothelial cells are protected from cytotoxic lymphocyte-mediated induction of apoptosis. When dissecting potential mechanisms behind this phenomenon, we discovered that the hantavirus nucleocapsid protein inhibits the enzymatic activity of both granzyme B and caspase 3. This provides a tentative explanation for the hantavirus-mediated block of cytotoxic granule-mediated apoptosis-induction, and hence the protection of infected cells from cytotoxic lymphocytes. These findings may explain why infected endothelial cells in hantavirus-infected patients are not destroyed by the strong cytotoxic lymphocyte response.
Author Summary
Rodent-born hantaviruses cause two severe emerging diseases with high case-fatality rates in humans; hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) in Eurasia and hantavirus cardio-pulmonary syndrome (HCPS; also called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)) in the Americas. A hallmark of HFRS/HCPS is increased vascular permeability. While endothelial cells are the main targets for hantaviruses, infection per se is not lytic. Patients suffering from HFRS and HCPS show remarkable strong cytotoxic lymphocyte responses including high numbers of activated NK cells and antigen-specific CD8 T cells. Hence, it has been suggested that cytotoxic lymphocyte-mediated killing of hantavirus-infected endothelial cells might contribute to HFRS/HCPS-pathogenesis. Here, we show that hantaviruses protect infected endothelial cells from being killed by cytotoxic lymphocytes. Further, we also show that hantaviruses inhibit apoptosis in general. Hantaviruses are negative-stranded RNA viruses encoding four structural proteins. Interestingly, the nucleocapsid protein was shown to inhibit the enzymatic functions of both granzyme B and caspase 3, two enzymes crucial for cytotoxic lymphocyte-mediated killing of virus-infected cells. Our study provides new insights into the interactions between hantaviruses, infected cells, and cytotoxic lymphocytes, and argues against a role for cytotoxic lymphocyte-mediated killing of virus-infected endothelial cells in causing HFRS/HCPS.
PMCID: PMC3610645  PMID: 23555267
14.  Synergistic Induction of Interferon α through TLR-3 and TLR-9 Agonists Identifies CD21 as Interferon α Receptor for the B Cell Response 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(3):e1003233.
Maternal antibodies inhibit seroconversion and the generation of measles virus (MeV)-specific antibodies (both neutralizing and non-neutralizing antibodies) after vaccination whereas T cell responses are usually unaffected. The lack of seroconversion leaves individuals susceptible to vaccine-preventable infections. Inhibition of antibody secretion is due to the inhibition of B cells through a cross-link of the B cell receptor with the inhibitory FcγIIB receptor (CD32) by maternal antibody/vaccine complexes. Here, we demonstrate that a combination of TLR-3 and TLR-9 agonists induces synergistically higher levels of type I interferon in vitro and in vivo than either agonist alone. The synergistic action of TLR-3 and TLR-9 agonists is based on a feedback loop through the interferon receptor. Finally, we have identified CD21 as a potential receptor for interferon α on B cells which contributes to interferon α-mediated activation of B cells in the presence of maternal antibodies. The combination leads to complete restoration of B cell and antibody responses after immunization in the presence of inhibitory MeV-specific IgG. The strong stimulatory action of type I interferon is due to the fact that type I interferon uses not only the interferon receptor but also CD21 as a functional receptor for B cell activation.
Author Summary
Maternal antibodies provide protection against infection with pathogens early in life but also interfere with vaccination. This interference is caused by a vaccine/maternal antibody complex which links the B cell receptor to the inhibitory CD32 molecule. Here, we show that this cross-link results in impaired B cell activation and proliferation which is correlated with diminished antibody responses. We also found that induction of large amounts of type I interferon restores the neutralizing antibody response in the presence of maternal antibodies. The best induction of type I interferon was accomplished by a combination of known activators of interferon secretion (a combination of TLR-3 and TLR-9 agonists). The strong stimulation by interferon is due to the previously unappreciated role of CD21 as functional receptor for interferon alpha. Our findings demonstrate that the dual receptor usage of type I interferon receptor and CD21 is crucial for B cell activation in the presence of maternal antibodies. This study suggests that measles vaccine, and potentially other vaccines, may induce optimal antibody responses when they are reconstituted with TLR-3 and TLR-9 agonists and thus these agonists may have great potential for clinical use.
PMCID: PMC3597509  PMID: 23516365
15.  Modeling Host Genetic Regulation of Influenza Pathogenesis in the Collaborative Cross 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(2):e1003196.
Genetic variation contributes to host responses and outcomes following infection by influenza A virus or other viral infections. Yet narrow windows of disease symptoms and confounding environmental factors have made it difficult to identify polymorphic genes that contribute to differential disease outcomes in human populations. Therefore, to control for these confounding environmental variables in a system that models the levels of genetic diversity found in outbred populations such as humans, we used incipient lines of the highly genetically diverse Collaborative Cross (CC) recombinant inbred (RI) panel (the pre-CC population) to study how genetic variation impacts influenza associated disease across a genetically diverse population. A wide range of variation in influenza disease related phenotypes including virus replication, virus-induced inflammation, and weight loss was observed. Many of the disease associated phenotypes were correlated, with viral replication and virus-induced inflammation being predictors of virus-induced weight loss. Despite these correlations, pre-CC mice with unique and novel disease phenotype combinations were observed. We also identified sets of transcripts (modules) that were correlated with aspects of disease. In order to identify how host genetic polymorphisms contribute to the observed variation in disease, we conducted quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping. We identified several QTL contributing to specific aspects of the host response including virus-induced weight loss, titer, pulmonary edema, neutrophil recruitment to the airways, and transcriptional expression. Existing whole-genome sequence data was applied to identify high priority candidate genes within QTL regions. A key host response QTL was located at the site of the known anti-influenza Mx1 gene. We sequenced the coding regions of Mx1 in the eight CC founder strains, and identified a novel Mx1 allele that showed reduced ability to inhibit viral replication, while maintaining protection from weight loss.
Author Summary
Host responses to an infectious agent are highly variable across the human population, however, it is not entirely clear how various factors such as pathogen dose, demography, environment and host genetic polymorphisms contribute to variable host responses and infectious outcomes. In this study, a new in vivo experimental model was used that recapitulates many of the genetic characteristics of an outbred population, such as humans. By controlling viral dose, environment and demographic variables, we were able to focus on the role that host genetic variation plays in influenza virus infection. Both the range of disease phenotypes and the combinations of sets of disease phenotypes at 4 days post infection across this population exhibited a large amount of diversity, reminiscent of the variation seen across the human population. Multiple host genome regions were identified that contributed to different aspects of the host response to influenza infection. Taken together, these results emphasize the critical role of host genetics in the response to infectious diseases. Given the breadth of host responses seen within this population, several new models for unique host responses to infection were identified.
PMCID: PMC3585141  PMID: 23468633
16.  Natural Resistance-associated Macrophage Protein (NRAMP) is a cellular receptor for Sindbis virus in both insect and mammalian hosts 
Cell host & microbe  2011;10(2):97-104.
Alphaviruses, including several emerging human pathogens, are a large family of mosquito-borne viruses with Sindbis virus being a prototypical member of the genus. The host factor requirements and receptors for entry of for this class of viruses remain obscure. Using a Drosophila system, we identified the divalent metal ion transporter Natural Resistance-Associated Macrophage Protein (NRAMP), as a host cell surface molecule required for Sindbis virus binding and entry into Drosophila cells. Consequently, flies mutant for dNRAMP were protected from virus infection. NRAMP2, the ubiquitously expressed vertebrate homolog, mediated binding and infection of Sindbis virus into mammalian cells, and murine cells deficient for NRAMP2 were non-permissive to infection. Alphavirus glycoprotein chimeras demonstrated that the requirement for NRAMP2 is at the level of Sindbis virus entry. Given the conserved structure of alphavirus glycoproteins, and the widespread use of transporters for viral entry, other alphaviruses may use conserved multi-pass membrane proteins for infection.
PMCID: PMC3164510  PMID: 21843867
17.  Antiviral Activity of a Small Molecule Deubiquitinase Inhibitor Occurs via Induction of the Unfolded Protein Response 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(7):e1002783.
Ubiquitin (Ub) is a vital regulatory component in various cellular processes, including cellular responses to viral infection. As obligate intracellular pathogens, viruses have the capacity to manipulate the ubiquitin (Ub) cycle to their advantage by encoding Ub-modifying proteins including deubiquitinases (DUBs). However, how cellular DUBs modulate specific viral infections, such as norovirus, is poorly understood. To examine the role of DUBs during norovirus infection, we used WP1130, a small molecule inhibitor of a subset of cellular DUBs. Replication of murine norovirus in murine macrophages and the human norovirus Norwalk virus in a replicon system were significantly inhibited by WP1130. Chemical proteomics identified the cellular DUB USP14 as a target of WP1130 in murine macrophages, and pharmacologic inhibition or siRNA-mediated knockdown of USP14 inhibited murine norovirus infection. USP14 is a proteasome-associated DUB that also binds to inositol-requiring enzyme 1 (IRE1), a critical mediator of the unfolded protein response (UPR). WP1130 treatment of murine macrophages did not alter proteasome activity but activated the X-box binding protein-1 (XBP-1) through an IRE1-dependent mechanism. In addition, WP1130 treatment or induction of the UPR also reduced infection of other RNA viruses including encephalomyocarditis virus, Sindbis virus, and La Crosse virus but not vesicular stomatitis virus. Pharmacologic inhibition of the IRE1 endonuclease activity partially rescued the antiviral effect of WP1130. Taken together, our studies support a model whereby induction of the UPR through cellular DUB inhibition blocks specific viral infections, and suggest that cellular DUBs and the UPR represent novel targets for future development of broad spectrum antiviral therapies.
Author Summary
Deubiquitinases (DUBs) are enzymes, which are implicated in many cellular processes but their functions during virus infection are not well understood. We used WP1130, a small molecule inhibitor of a subset of DUBs, as a probe to unravel the functions of DUBs during norovirus infections. We identified USP14 as a cellular DUB target of WP1130 that is required for optimal norovirus infection. Furthermore, we demonstrated that chemical induction of the unfolded protein response can significantly inhibit viral progeny production of several RNA viruses, including noroviruses. These results suggest that chemical inhibition of cellular DUBs and/or modulation of the unfolded protein response could represent novel targets for therapy against a variety of viral pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3390402  PMID: 22792064
18.  A Double-Inactivated Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Vaccine Provides Incomplete Protection in Mice and Induces Increased Eosinophilic Proinflammatory Pulmonary Response upon Challenge▿ 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(23):12201-12215.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is an important emerging virus that is highly pathogenic in aged populations and is maintained with great diversity in zoonotic reservoirs. While a variety of vaccine platforms have shown efficacy in young-animal models and against homologous viral strains, vaccine efficacy has not been thoroughly evaluated using highly pathogenic variants that replicate the acute end stage lung disease phenotypes seen during the human epidemic. Using an adjuvanted and an unadjuvanted double-inactivated SARS-CoV (DIV) vaccine, we demonstrate an eosinophilic immunopathology in aged mice comparable to that seen in mice immunized with the SARS nucleocapsid protein, and poor protection against a nonlethal heterologous challenge. In young and 1-year-old animals, we demonstrate that adjuvanted DIV vaccine provides protection against lethal disease in young animals following homologous and heterologous challenge, although enhanced immune pathology and eosinophilia are evident following heterologous challenge. In the absence of alum, DIV vaccine performed poorly in young animals challenged with lethal homologous or heterologous strains. In contrast, DIV vaccines (both adjuvanted and unadjuvanted) performed poorly in aged-animal models. Importantly, aged animals displayed increased eosinophilic immune pathology in the lungs and were not protected against significant virus replication. These data raise significant concerns regarding DIV vaccine safety and highlight the need for additional studies of the molecular mechanisms governing DIV-induced eosinophilia and vaccine failure, especially in the more vulnerable aged-animal models of human disease.
PMCID: PMC3209347  PMID: 21937658
19.  Induction of GADD34 Is Necessary for dsRNA-Dependent Interferon-β Production and Participates in the Control of Chikungunya Virus Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(5):e1002708.
Nucleic acid sensing by cells is a key feature of antiviral responses, which generally result in type-I Interferon production and tissue protection. However, detection of double-stranded RNAs in virus-infected cells promotes two concomitant and apparently conflicting events. The dsRNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) phosphorylates translation initiation factor 2-alpha (eIF2α) and inhibits protein synthesis, whereas cytosolic DExD/H box RNA helicases induce expression of type I-IFN and other cytokines. We demonstrate that the phosphatase-1 cofactor, growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible protein 34 (GADD34/Ppp1r15a), an important component of the unfolded protein response (UPR), is absolutely required for type I-IFN and IL-6 production by mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) in response to dsRNA. GADD34 expression in MEFs is dependent on PKR activation, linking cytosolic microbial sensing with the ATF4 branch of the UPR. The importance of this link for anti-viral immunity is underlined by the extreme susceptibility of GADD34-deficient fibroblasts and neonate mice to Chikungunya virus infection.
Author Summary
Nucleic acids detection by multiple molecular sensors results in type-I interferon production, which protects cells and tissues from viral infections. At the intracellular level, the detection of double-stranded RNA by one of these sensors, the dsRNA-dependent protein kinase also leads to the profound inhibition of protein synthesis. We describe here that the inducible phosphatase 1 co-factor Ppp1r15a/GADD34, a well known player in the endoplasmic reticulum unfolded protein response (UPR), is activated during double-stranded RNA detection and is absolutely necessary to allow cytokine production in cells exposed to poly I:C or Chikungunya virus. Our data shows that the cellular response to nucleic acids can reveal unanticipated connections between innate immunity and fundamental stress pathways, such as the ATF4 branch of the UPR.
PMCID: PMC3355096  PMID: 22615568
20.  Dengue Virus Infection Perturbs Lipid Homeostasis in Infected Mosquito Cells 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(3):e1002584.
Dengue virus causes ∼50–100 million infections per year and thus is considered one of the most aggressive arthropod-borne human pathogen worldwide. During its replication, dengue virus induces dramatic alterations in the intracellular membranes of infected cells. This phenomenon is observed both in human and vector-derived cells. Using high-resolution mass spectrometry of mosquito cells, we show that this membrane remodeling is directly linked to a unique lipid repertoire induced by dengue virus infection. Specifically, 15% of the metabolites detected were significantly different between DENV infected and uninfected cells while 85% of the metabolites detected were significantly different in isolated replication complex membranes. Furthermore, we demonstrate that intracellular lipid redistribution induced by the inhibition of fatty acid synthase, the rate-limiting enzyme in lipid biosynthesis, is sufficient for cell survival but is inhibitory to dengue virus replication. Lipids that have the capacity to destabilize and change the curvature of membranes as well as lipids that change the permeability of membranes are enriched in dengue virus infected cells. Several sphingolipids and other bioactive signaling molecules that are involved in controlling membrane fusion, fission, and trafficking as well as molecules that influence cytoskeletal reorganization are also up regulated during dengue infection. These observations shed light on the emerging role of lipids in shaping the membrane and protein environments during viral infections and suggest membrane-organizing principles that may influence virus-induced intracellular membrane architecture.
Author Summary
Dengue virus is one of the most aggressive human pathogens worldwide. It causes 50–100 million infections per year but there is no vaccine or antiviral that is currently effective against the disease. The virus is spread by Aedes aegyptii and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes and viral replication within the mosquito vector is required for transmission to a new human host. During this replication cycle, the virus causes significant changes to the membrane organization of infected cells. These virus-induced membrane alterations help to assemble arrays of viral replication factories and aid the virus to evade host antiviral defense mechanisms. Previously, much effort has been placed in trying to identify viral and cellular protein effectors that aid virus replication. In this study we have explored the role of lipids in the formation of these extensive membrane platforms in mosquito cells. Using high-resolution mass spectrometry we have profiled the lipid composition of dengue virus infected mosquito cells and compared it to uninfected cells. Through this we have identified several lipid classes that are differentially regulated during dengue virus replication. Using inhibitors of lipid biosynthesis we have also identified a lipid repertoire that is inhibitory to viral replication. Knowledge of how dengue virus utilizes cellular lipids and downstream signaling pathways to facilitate its replication will provide novel targets that could be utilized for developing effective antivirals. This study is also a forerunner for future comparative analyses of the human host and vector membrane environments required for viral replication.
PMCID: PMC3310792  PMID: 22457619
21.  Mannose Binding Lectin Is Required for Alphavirus-Induced Arthritis/Myositis 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(3):e1002586.
Mosquito-borne alphaviruses such as chikungunya virus and Ross River virus (RRV) are emerging pathogens capable of causing large-scale epidemics of virus-induced arthritis and myositis. The pathology of RRV-induced disease in both humans and mice is associated with induction of the host inflammatory response within the muscle and joints, and prior studies have demonstrated that the host complement system contributes to development of disease. In this study, we have used a mouse model of RRV-induced disease to identify and characterize which complement activation pathways mediate disease progression after infection, and we have identified the mannose binding lectin (MBL) pathway, but not the classical or alternative complement activation pathways, as essential for development of RRV-induced disease. MBL deposition was enhanced in RRV infected muscle tissue from wild type mice and RRV infected MBL deficient mice exhibited reduced disease, tissue damage, and complement deposition compared to wild-type mice. In contrast, mice deficient for key components of the classical or alternative complement activation pathways still developed severe RRV-induced disease. Further characterization of MBL deficient mice demonstrated that similar to C3−/− mice, viral replication and inflammatory cell recruitment were equivalent to wild type animals, suggesting that RRV-mediated induction of complement dependent immune pathology is largely MBL dependent. Consistent with these findings, human patients diagnosed with RRV disease had elevated serum MBL levels compared to healthy controls, and MBL levels in the serum and synovial fluid correlated with severity of disease. These findings demonstrate a role for MBL in promoting RRV-induced disease in both mice and humans and suggest that the MBL pathway of complement activation may be an effective target for therapeutic intervention for humans suffering from RRV-induced arthritis and myositis.
Author Summary
Arthritogenic alphaviruses such as Ross River virus (RRV) and chikungunya virus are transmitted to humans by mosquitoes and cause epidemics of debilitating infectious arthritis and myositis in various areas around the world. Studies in humans and mice indicate that the host inflammatory response is critical for development of RRV-induced arthritis and myositis, and the host complement system, a component of the host inflammatory response, plays an essential role in the development of RRV-induced disease through activation of complement receptor 3 (CR3)-bearing inflammatory cells. Of the three main complement activation pathways, only the lectin pathway activated by mannose binding lectin (MBL) was essential for RRV-induced complement activation, tissue destruction, and disease. Furthermore, we found that levels of MBL were elevated in human patients suffering from RRV-induced polyarthritis and MBL levels correlated with disease severity. Taken together, our data implicates a role for MBL in mediating RRV-induced disease in both humans and mice, and suggests that therapeutic targeting of MBL may be an effective strategy for disease treatment in humans.
PMCID: PMC3310795  PMID: 22457620
22.  Mutations in nsP1 and PE2 are critical determinants of Ross River virus-induced musculoskeletal inflammatory disease in a mouse model 
Virology  2010;410(1):216-227.
The viral determinants of Alphavirus-induced rheumatic disease have not been elucidated. We identified an RRV strain (DC5692) which, in contrast to the T48 strain, does not induce musculoskeletal inflammation in a mouse model of RRV disease. Substitution of the RRV T48 strain nonstructural protein 1 (nsP1) coding sequence with that from strain DC5692 generated a virus that was attenuated in vivo despite similar viral loads in tissues. In contrast, substitution of the T48 PE2 coding region with the PE2 coding region from DC5692 resulted in attenuation in vivo and reduced viral loads in tissues. In gain of virulence experiments, substitution of the DC5692 strain nsP1 and PE2 coding regions with those from the T48 strain was sufficient to restore full virulence to the DC5692 strain. These findings indicate that determinants in both nsP1 and PE2 have critical and distinct roles in the pathogenesis of RRV-induced musculoskeletal inflammatory disease in mice.
PMCID: PMC3017666  PMID: 21131014
Alphavirus; pathogenesis; virulence; inflammation; rheumatic disease
23.  Expression Quantitative Trait Loci for Extreme Host Response to Influenza A in Pre-Collaborative Cross Mice 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2012;2(2):213-221.
Outbreaks of influenza occur on a yearly basis, causing a wide range of symptoms across the human population. Although evidence exists that the host response to influenza infection is influenced by genetic differences in the host, this has not been studied in a system with genetic diversity mirroring that of the human population. Here we used mice from 44 influenza-infected pre-Collaborative Cross lines determined to have extreme phenotypes with regard to the host response to influenza A virus infection. Global transcriptome profiling identified 2671 transcripts that were significantly differentially expressed between mice that showed a severe (“high”) and mild (“low”) response to infection. Expression quantitative trait loci mapping was performed on those transcripts that were differentially expressed because of differences in host response phenotype to identify putative regulatory regions potentially controlling their expression. Twenty-one significant expression quantitative trait loci were identified, which allowed direct examination of genes associated with regulation of host response to infection. To perform initial validation of our findings, quantitative polymerase chain reaction was performed in the infected founder strains, and we were able to confirm or partially confirm more than 70% of those tested. In addition, we explored putative causal and reactive (downstream) relationships between the significantly regulated genes and others in the high or low response groups using structural equation modeling. By using systems approaches and a genetically diverse population, we were able to develop a novel framework for identifying the underlying biological subnetworks under host genetic control during influenza virus infection.
PMCID: PMC3284329  PMID: 22384400
eQTL; influenza; collaborative cross; host response; SEM; Mouse Collaborative Cross; Mouse Genetic Resource
24.  Identification and Characterization of a Novel Non-Structural Protein of Bluetongue Virus 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(12):e1002477.
Bluetongue virus (BTV) is the causative agent of a major disease of livestock (bluetongue). For over two decades, it has been widely accepted that the 10 segments of the dsRNA genome of BTV encode for 7 structural and 3 non-structural proteins. The non-structural proteins (NS1, NS2, NS3/NS3a) play different key roles during the viral replication cycle. In this study we show that BTV expresses a fourth non-structural protein (that we designated NS4) encoded by an open reading frame in segment 9 overlapping the open reading frame encoding VP6. NS4 is 77–79 amino acid residues in length and highly conserved among several BTV serotypes/strains. NS4 was expressed early post-infection and localized in the nucleoli of BTV infected cells. By reverse genetics, we showed that NS4 is dispensable for BTV replication in vitro, both in mammalian and insect cells, and does not affect viral virulence in murine models of bluetongue infection. Interestingly, NS4 conferred a replication advantage to BTV-8, but not to BTV-1, in cells in an interferon (IFN)-induced antiviral state. However, the BTV-1 NS4 conferred a replication advantage both to a BTV-8 reassortant containing the entire segment 9 of BTV-1 and to a BTV-8 mutant with the NS4 identical to the homologous BTV-1 protein. Collectively, this study suggests that NS4 plays an important role in virus-host interaction and is one of the mechanisms played, at least by BTV-8, to counteract the antiviral response of the host. In addition, the distinct nucleolar localization of NS4, being expressed by a virus that replicates exclusively in the cytoplasm, offers new avenues to investigate the multiple roles played by the nucleolus in the biology of the cell.
Author Summary
Bluetongue is a major infectious disease of ruminants caused by bluetongue virus (BTV), an “arbovirus” transmitted from infected to susceptible hosts by biting midges. Historically, bluetongue has been endemic almost exclusively in temperate and tropical areas of the world. However, in the last decade BTV has spread extensively in several geographical areas causing a serious burden to both animal health and the economy. BTV possesses a double-stranded RNA segmented genome. For over two decades, it has been widely accepted that the 10 segments of BTV genome encode for 7 structural and 3 non-structural proteins. In this study we discovered that BTV expresses a previously uncharacterized non-structural protein that we designated NS4. Although BTV replicates exclusively in the cytoplasm, we found NS4 to localize in the nucleoli of the infected cells. Our study shows that NS4 is not needed for viral replication both in mammalian and insect cells, and in mice. However, NS4 confers a replication advantage to BTV in cells in an antiviral state induced by interferon. In conclusion, we have elucidated a possible route by which BTV can counteract the defences of the host.
PMCID: PMC3248566  PMID: 22241985
25.  Sequential Adaptive Mutations Enhance Efficient Vector Switching by Chikungunya Virus and Its Epidemic Emergence 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(12):e1002412.
The adaptation of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) to a new vector, the Aedes albopictus mosquito, is a major factor contributing to its ongoing re-emergence in a series of large-scale epidemics of arthritic disease in many parts of the world since 2004. Although the initial step of CHIKV adaptation to A. albopictus was determined to involve an A226V amino acid substitution in the E1 envelope glycoprotein that first arose in 2005, little attention has been paid to subsequent CHIKV evolution after this adaptive mutation was convergently selected in several geographic locations. To determine whether selection of second-step adaptive mutations in CHIKV or other arthropod-borne viruses occurs in nature, we tested the effect of an additional envelope glycoprotein amino acid change identified in Kerala, India in 2009. This substitution, E2-L210Q, caused a significant increase in the ability of CHIKV to develop a disseminated infection in A. albopictus, but had no effect on CHIKV fitness in the alternative mosquito vector, A. aegypti, or in vertebrate cell lines. Using infectious viruses or virus-like replicon particles expressing the E2-210Q and E2-210L residues, we determined that E2-L210Q acts primarily at the level of infection of A. albopictus midgut epithelial cells. In addition, we observed that the initial adaptive substitution, E1-A226V, had a significantly stronger effect on CHIKV fitness in A. albopictus than E2-L210Q, thus explaining the observed time differences required for selective sweeps of these mutations in nature. These results indicate that the continuous CHIKV circulation in an A. albopictus-human cycle since 2005 has resulted in the selection of an additional, second-step mutation that may facilitate even more efficient virus circulation and persistence in endemic areas, further increasing the risk of more severe and expanded CHIK epidemics.
Author Summary
Since 2004, chikungunya virus (CHIKV) has caused a series of devastating outbreaks in Asia, Africa and Europe that resulted in up to 6.5 million cases of arthritic disease and have been associated with several thousand human deaths. Although the initial step of CHIKV adaptation to A. albopictus mosquitoes, which promoted re-emergence of the virus, was determined to involve an E1-A226V amino acid substitution, little attention has been paid to subsequent CHIKV evolution after this adaptive mutation was convergently selected in several geographic locations. Here we showed that novel substitution, E2-L210Q identified in Kerala, India in 2009, caused a significant increase in the ability of CHIKV to infect and develop a disseminated infection in A. albopictus. This may facilitate even more efficient virus circulation and persistence in endemic areas, further increasing the risk of more severe and expanded CHIK epidemics. Our findings represent some of the first evidence supporting the hypothesis that adaptation of CHIKV (and possible other arboviruses) to new niches is a sequential multistep process that involves selections of at least two adaptive mutations.
PMCID: PMC3234230  PMID: 22174678

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