The recently emerged severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is a potent pathogen of humans and is capable of rapid global spread. Peptide-conjugated antisense morpholino oligomers (P-PMO) were designed to bind by base pairing to specific sequences in the SARS-CoV (Tor2 strain) genome. The P-PMO were tested for their capacity to inhibit production of infectious virus as well as to probe the function of conserved viral RNA motifs and secondary structures. Several virus-targeted P-PMO and a random-sequence control P-PMO showed low inhibitory activity against SARS coronavirus. Certain other virus-targeted P-PMO reduced virus-induced cytopathology and cell-to-cell spread as a consequence of decreasing viral amplification. Active P-PMO were effective when administered at any time prior to peak viral synthesis and exerted sustained antiviral effects while present in culture medium. P-PMO showed low nonspecific inhibitory activity against translation of nontargeted RNA or growth of the arenavirus lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. Two P-PMO targeting the viral transcription-regulatory sequence (TRS) region in the 5′ untranslated region were the most effective inhibitors tested. After several viral passages in the presence of a TRS-targeted P-PMO, partially drug-resistant SARS-CoV mutants arose which contained three contiguous base point mutations at the binding site of a TRS-targeted P-PMO. Those partially resistant viruses grew more slowly and formed smaller plaques than wild-type SARS-CoV. These results suggest PMO compounds have powerful therapeutic and investigative potential toward coronavirus infection.
The rodent arenavirus glycoprotein complex encodes a stable signal peptide (SSP) that is an essential structural component of mature virions. The SSP, GP1, and GP2 subunits of the trimeric glycoprotein complex noncovalently interact to stud the surface of virions and initiate arenavirus infectivity. Nascent glycoprotein production undergoes two proteolytic cleavage events: first within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to cleave SSP from the remaining precursor GP1/2 (glycoprotein complex [GPC]) glycoprotein and second within the Golgi stacks by the cellular SKI-1/S1P for GP1/2 processing to yield GP1 and GP2 subunits. Cleaved SSP is not degraded but retained as an essential glycoprotein subunit. Here, we defined functions of the 58-amino-acid lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) SSP in regard to glycoprotein complex processing and maturation. Using molecular biology techniques, confocal microscopy, and flow cytometry, we detected SSP at the plasma membrane of transfected cells. Further, we identified a sorting signal (FLLL) near the carboxyl terminus of SSP that is required for glycoprotein maturation and trafficking. In the absence of SSP, the glycoprotein accumulated within the ER and was unable to undergo processing by SKI-1/S1P. Mutation of this highly conserved FLLL motif showed impaired glycoprotein processing and secretory pathway trafficking, as well as defective surface expression and pH-dependent membrane fusion. Immunoprecipitation of SSP confirmed an interaction between the signal peptide and the GP2 subunit; however, mutations within this FLLL motif disrupted the association of the GP1 subunit with the remaining glycoprotein complex.
Several members of the Arenaviridae family are neglected human pathogens capable of causing illness ranging from a nondescript flu-like syndrome to fulminant hemorrhagic fever. Infections by arenaviruses are mediated by attachment of the virus glycoprotein to receptors on host cells and virion internalization by fusion within an acidified endosome. SSP plays a critical role in the fusion of the virus with the host cell membrane. Within infected cells, the retained glycoprotein SSP plays a neglected yet essential role in glycoprotein biosynthesis. Without this 6-kDa polypeptide, the glycoprotein precursor is retained within the endoplasmic reticulum, and trafficking to the plasma membrane where SSP, GP1, and GP2 localize for glycoprotein assembly into infectious virions is inhibited. To investigate SSP contributions to glycoprotein maturation and function, we created an SSP-tagged glycoprotein to directly detect and manipulate this subunit. This resource will aid future studies to identify host factors that mediate glycoprotein maturation.
Coronaviruses (CoV), like other positive-stranded RNA viruses, redirect and rearrange host cell membranes for use as part of the viral genome replication and transcription machinery. Specifically, coronaviruses induce the formation of double-membrane vesicles in infected cells. Although these double-membrane vesicles have been well characterized, the mechanism behind their formation remains unclear, including which viral proteins are responsible. Here, we use transfection of plasmid constructs encoding full-length versions of the three transmembrane-containing nonstructural proteins (nsps) of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus to examine the ability of each to induce double-membrane vesicles in tissue culture. nsp3 has membrane disordering and proliferation ability, both in its full-length form and in a C-terminal-truncated form. nsp3 and nsp4 working together have the ability to pair membranes. nsp6 has membrane proliferation ability as well, inducing perinuclear vesicles localized around the microtubule organizing center. Together, nsp3, nsp4, and nsp6 have the ability to induce double-membrane vesicles that are similar to those observed in SARS coronavirus-infected cells. This activity appears to require the full-length form of nsp3 for action, as double-membrane vesicles were not seen in cells coexpressing the C-terminal truncation nsp3 with nsp4 and nsp6.
Although the majority of infections caused by coronaviruses in humans are relatively mild, the SARS outbreak of 2002 to 2003 and the emergence of the human coronavirus Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) in 2012 highlight the ability of these viruses to cause severe pathology and fatality. Insight into the molecular biology of how coronaviruses take over the host cell is critical for a full understanding of any known and possible future outbreaks caused by these viruses. Additionally, since membrane rearrangement is a tactic used by all known positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses, this work adds to that body of knowledge and may prove beneficial in the development of future therapies not only for human coronavirus infections but for other pathogens as well.
Enveloped virus release is driven by poorly understood proteins that are functional analogs of the coat protein assemblies that mediate intracellular vesicle trafficking. We used differential electron density mapping to detect membrane integration by membrane-bending proteins from five virus families. This demonstrates that virus matrix proteins replace an unexpectedly large portion of the lipid content of the inner membrane face, a generalized feature likely to play a role in reshaping cellular membranes.
The glycoprotein (GP) of arenaviruses is glycosylated at 11 conserved N-glycosylation sites. We constructed recombinant lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (rLCMV) featuring either additions or deletions of these N-glycans to investigate their role in the viral life cycle. N-glycosylation at two sites, T87 and S97, were found to be necessary to rescue rLCMV. Three of nine successfully rescued mutants, S116A, T234A, and S373A, under selective pressures in either epithelial, neuronal, or macrophage cells reverted to WT sequence. Of the seven stable N-glycan deletion mutants, five of these led to altered viral fitness and cell tropism, assessed as growth in either mouse primary cortical neurons or bone marrow derived macrophages. These results demonstrate that the deletion of N-glycans in LCMV GP may confer an advantage to the virus for infection of neurons but a disadvantage in macrophages.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus infection and growth are dependent on initiating signaling and enzyme actions upon viral entry into the host cell. Proteins packaged during virus assembly may subsequently form the first line of attack and host manipulation upon infection. A complete characterization of virion components is therefore important to understanding the dynamics of early stages of infection. Mass spectrometry and kinase profiling techniques identified nearly 200 incorporated host and viral proteins. We used published interaction data to identify hubs of connectivity with potential significance for virion formation. Surprisingly, the hub with the most potential connections was not the viral M protein but the nonstructural protein 3 (nsp3), which is one of the novel virion components identified by mass spectrometry. Based on new experimental data and a bioinformatics analysis across the Coronaviridae, we propose a higher-resolution functional domain architecture for nsp3 that determines the interaction capacity of this protein. Using recombinant protein domains expressed in Escherichia coli, we identified two additional RNA-binding domains of nsp3. One of these domains is located within the previously described SARS-unique domain, and there is a nucleic acid chaperone-like domain located immediately downstream of the papain-like proteinase domain. We also identified a novel cysteine-coordinated metal ion-binding domain. Analyses of interdomain interactions and provisional functional annotation of the remaining, so-far-uncharacterized domains are presented. Overall, the ensemble of data surveyed here paint a more complete picture of nsp3 as a conserved component of the viral protein processing machinery, which is intimately associated with viral RNA in its role as a virion component.
Although cellular immunity to acute lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection has been well characterized in experimental studies in mice, the T cell response to this virus in humans is incompletely understood. Thus, we analyzed the breadths, magnitudes, and differentiation phenotypes of memory LCMV-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells in three human donors displaying a variety of disease outcomes after accidental needle stick injury or exposure to LCMV. Although only a small cohort of donors was analyzed at a single time point postinfection, several interesting observations were made. First, we were able to detect LCMV-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses directly ex vivo at 4 to 8 years after exposure, demonstrating the longevity of T cell memory in humans. Second, unlike in murine models of LCMV infection, we found that the breadths of memory CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses were not significantly different from one another. Third, it seemed that the overall CD8+ T cell response was augmented with increasing severity of disease, while the LCMV-specific CD4+ T cell response magnitude was highly variable between the three different donors. Next, we found that LCMV-specific CD8+ T cells in the three donors analyzed seemed to undergo an effector memory differentiation program distinct from that of CD4+ T cells. Finally, the levels of expression of memory, costimulatory, and inhibitory receptors on CD8+ and CD4+ T cell subsets, in some instances, correlated with disease outcome. These data demonstrate for the first time LCMV-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells in infected humans and begin to provide new insights into memory T cell responses following an acute virus infection.
The primary CD8+ T cell response of C57BL/6J mice against the 28 known epitopes of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) is associated with a clear immunodominance hierarchy whose mechanism has yet to be defined. To evaluate the role of epitope competition in immunodominance, we manipulated the number of CD8+ T cell epitopes that could be recognized during LCMV infection. Decreasing epitope numbers, using a viral variant lacking dominant epitopes or C57BL/6J mice lacking H-2Kb, resulted in minor response increases for the remaining epitopes and no new epitopes being recognized. Increasing epitope numbers by using F1 hybrid mice, delivery by recombinant vaccinia virus, or epitope delivery as a pool in IFA maintained the overall response pattern; however, changes in the hierarchy did become apparent. MHC binding affinity of these epitopes was measured and was found to not strictly predict the hierarchy since in several cases similarly high binding affinities were associated with differences in immunodominance. In these instances the naive CD8+ T cell precursor frequency, directly measured by tetramer staining, correlated with the response hierarchy seen after LCMV infection. Finally, we investigated an escape mutant of the dominant GP33-41 epitope that elicited a weak response following LCMV variant virus infection. Strikingly, dominance loss likely reflects a substantial reduction in frequencies of naive precursors specific for this epitope. Thus, our results indicate that an intrinsic property of the epitope (MHC binding affinity) and an intrinsic property of the host (naive precursor frequency) jointly dictate the immunodominance hierarchy of CD8+ T cell responses.
Members of the Arenaviridae family are a threat to public health and can cause meningitis and hemorrhagic fever, and yet treatment options remain limited by a lack of effective antivirals. In this study, we found that peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMO) complementary to viral genomic RNA were effective in reducing arenavirus replication in cell cultures and in vivo. PPMO complementary to the Junín virus genome were designed to interfere with viral RNA synthesis or translation or both. However, only PPMO designed to potentially interfere with translation were effective in reducing virus replication. PPMO complementary to sequences that are highly conserved across the arenaviruses and located at the 5′ termini of both genomic segments were effective against Junín virus, Tacaribe virus, Pichinde virus, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV)-infected cell cultures and suppressed viral titers in the livers of LCMV-infected mice. These results suggest that arenavirus 5′ genomic termini represent promising targets for pan-arenavirus antiviral therapeutic development.
The glycoprotein of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) contains nine potential N-linked glycosylation sites. We investigated the function of these N-glycosylations by using alanine-scanning mutagenesis. All the available sites were occupied on GP1 and two of three on GP2. N-linked glycan mutations at positions 87 and 97 on GP1 resulted in reduction of expression and absence of cleavage and were necessary for downstream functions, as confirmed by the loss of GP-mediated fusion activity with T87A, S97A mutants. In contrast, T234A and E379N/A381T mutants impaired GP-mediated cell fusion without altered expression or processing. Infectivity via virus-like particles required glycans and a cleaved glycoprotein. Glycosylation at the first site within GP2, not normally utilized by LCMV, exhibited increased VLP-infectivity. We also confirmed the role of the N-linked glycan at position 173 in the masking of the neutralizing epitope GP-1D. Taken together, our results indicated a strong relationship between fusion and infectivity.
Arenavirus; Envelope glycoprotein; Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus; Glycosylation; Epitope; Membrane fusion; Mutagenesis
Recovery from Lassa virus (LASV) infection usually precedes the appearance of neutralizing antibodies, indicating that cellular immunity plays a primary role in viral clearance. To date, the role of LASV-specific CD8+ T cells has not been evaluated in humans. To facilitate such studies, we utilized a predictive algorithm to identify candidate HLA-A2 supertype epitopes from the LASV nucleoprotein and glycoprotein precursor (GPC) genes. We identified three peptides (GPC42-50, GLVGLVTFL; GPC60-68, SLYKGVYEL; and GPC441-449, YLISIFLHL) that displayed high-affinity binding (≤98 nM) to HLA-A*0201, induced CD8+ T-cell responses of high functional avidity in HLA-A*0201 transgenic mice, and were naturally processed from native LASV GPC in human HLA-A*0201-positive target cells. HLA-A*0201 mice immunized with either GPC42-50 or GPC60-68 were protected against challenge with a recombinant vaccinia virus that expressed LASV GPC. The epitopes identified in this study represent potential diagnostic reagents and candidates for inclusion in epitope-based vaccine constructs. Our approach is applicable to any pathogen with existing sequence data, does not require manipulation of the actual pathogen or access to immune human donors, and should therefore be generally applicable to category A through C agents and other emerging pathogens.
Arenaviruses are negative-strand RNA viruses that cause human diseases such as lymphocytic choriomeningitis, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, and Lassa hemorrhagic fever. No licensed vaccines exist, and current treatment is limited to ribavirin. The prototypic arenavirus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), is a model for dissecting virus-host interactions in persistent and acute disease. The RING finger protein Z has been identified as the driving force of arenaviral budding and acts as the viral matrix protein. While residues in Z required for viral budding have been described, residues that govern the Z matrix function(s) have yet to be fully elucidated. Because this matrix function is integral to viral assembly, we reasoned that this would be reflected in sequence conservation. Using sequence alignment, we identified several conserved residues in Z outside the RING and late domains. Nine residues were each mutated to alanine in Lassa fever virus Z. All of the mutations affected the expression of an LCMV minigenome and the infectivity of virus-like particles, but to greatly varying degrees. Interestingly, no mutations appeared to affect Z-mediated budding or association with viral GP. Our findings provide direct experimental evidence supporting a role for Z in the modulation of the activity of the viral ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex and its packaging into mature infectious viral particles.
Arenaviruses cause severe human disease ranging from aseptic meningitis following lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection to hemorrhagic fever syndromes following infection with Guanarito virus (GTOV), Junin virus (JUNV), Lassa virus (LASV), Machupo virus (MACV), Sabia virus (SABV), or Whitewater Arroyo virus (WWAV). Cellular immunity, chiefly the CD8+ T-cell response, plays a critical role in providing protective immunity following infection with the Old World arenaviruses LASV and LCMV. In the current study, we evaluated whether HLA class I-restricted epitopes that are cross-reactive among pathogenic arenaviruses could be identified for the purpose of developing an epitope-based vaccination approach that would cross-protect against multiple arenaviruses. We were able to identify a panel of HLA-A*0201-restricted peptides derived from the same region of the glycoprotein precursor (GPC) of LASV (GPC spanning residues 441 to 449 [GPC441-449]), LCMV (GPC447-455), JUNV (GPC429-437), MACV (GPC444-452), GTOV (GPC427-435), and WWAV (GPC428-436) that displayed high-affinity binding to HLA-A*0201 and were recognized by CD8+ T cells in a cross-reactive manner following LCMV infection or peptide immunization of HLA-A*0201 transgenic mice. Immunization of HLA-A*0201 mice with the Old World peptide LASV GPC441-449 or LCMV GPC447-455 induced high-avidity CD8+ T-cell responses that were able to kill syngeneic target cells pulsed with either LASV GPC441-449 or LCMV GPC447-455 in vivo and provided significant protection against viral challenge with LCMV. Through this study, we have demonstrated that HLA class I-restricted, cross-reactive epitopes exist among diverse arenaviruses and that individual epitopes can be utilized as effective vaccine determinants for multiple pathogenic arenaviruses.
The nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) structure of a globular domain of residues 1071 to 1178 within the previously annotated nucleic acid-binding region (NAB) of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus nonstructural protein 3 (nsp3) has been determined, and N- and C-terminally adjoining polypeptide segments of 37 and 25 residues, respectively, have been shown to form flexibly extended linkers to the preceding globular domain and to the following, as yet uncharacterized domain. This extension of the structural coverage of nsp3 was obtained from NMR studies with an nsp3 construct comprising residues 1066 to 1181 [nsp3(1066-1181)] and the constructs nsp3(1066-1203) and nsp3(1035-1181). A search of the protein structure database indicates that the globular domain of the NAB represents a new fold, with a parallel four-strand β-sheet holding two α-helices of three and four turns that are oriented antiparallel to the β-strands. Two antiparallel two-strand β-sheets and two 310-helices are anchored against the surface of this barrel-like molecular core. Chemical shift changes upon the addition of single-stranded RNAs (ssRNAs) identified a group of residues that form a positively charged patch on the protein surface as the binding site responsible for the previously reported affinity for nucleic acids. This binding site is similar to the ssRNA-binding site of the sterile alpha motif domain of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Vts1p protein, although the two proteins do not share a common globular fold.
Several arenaviruses cause severe hemorrhagic fever and aseptic meningitis in humans for which no licensed vaccines are available. A major obstacle for vaccine development is pathogen heterogeneity within the Arenaviridae family. Evidence in animal models and humans indicate that T cell and antibody-mediated immunity play important roles in controlling arenavirus infection and replication. Because CD4+ T cells are needed for optimal CD8+ T cell responses and to provide cognate help for B cells, knowledge of epitopes recognized by CD4+ T cells is critical to the development of an effective vaccine strategy against arenaviruses. Thus, the goal of the present study was to define and characterize CD4+ T cell responses from a broad repertoire of pathogenic arenaviruses (including lymphocytic choriomeningitis, Lassa, Guanarito, Junin, Machupo, Sabia, and Whitewater Arroyo viruses) and to provide determinants with the potential to be incorporated into a multivalent vaccine strategy.
By inoculating HLA-DRB1*0101 transgenic mice with a panel of recombinant vaccinia viruses, each expressing a single arenavirus antigen, we identified 37 human HLA-DRB1*0101-restricted CD4+ T cell epitopes from the 7 antigenically distinct arenaviruses. We showed that the arenavirus-specific CD4+ T cell epitopes are capable of eliciting T cells with a propensity to provide help and protection through CD40L and polyfunctional cytokine expression. Importantly, we demonstrated that the set of identified CD4+ T cell epitopes provides broad, non-ethnically biased population coverage of all 7 arenavirus species targeted by our studies.
The identification of CD4+ T cell epitopes, with promiscuous binding properties, derived from 7 different arenavirus species will aid in the development of a T cell-based vaccine strategy with the potential to target a broad range of ethnicities within the general population and to protect against both Old and New World arenavirus infection.
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) generates 16 nonstructural proteins (nsp's) through proteolytic cleavage of a large precursor protein. Although several nsp's exhibit catalytic activities that are important for viral replication and transcription, other nsp's have less clearly defined roles during an infection. In order to gain a better understanding of their functions, we attempted to identify host proteins that interact with nsp's during SARS-CoV infections. For nsp2, we identified an interaction with two host proteins, prohibitin 1 (PHB1) and PHB2. Our results suggest that nsp2 may be involved in the disruption of intracellular host signaling during SARS-CoV infections.
Arenaviruses are the causative pathogens of severe hemorrhagic fever and aseptic meningitis in humans, for which no licensed vaccines are currently available. Pathogen heterogeneity within the Arenaviridae family poses a significant challenge for vaccine development. The main hypothesis we tested in the present study was whether it is possible to design a universal vaccine strategy capable of inducing simultaneous HLA-restricted CD8+ T cell responses against 7 pathogenic arenaviruses (including the lymphocytic choriomeningitis, Lassa, Guanarito, Junin, Machupo, Sabia, and Whitewater Arroyo viruses), either through the identification of widely conserved epitopes, or by the identification of a collection of epitopes derived from multiple arenavirus species. By inoculating HLA transgenic mice with a panel of recombinant vaccinia viruses (rVACVs) expressing the different arenavirus proteins, we identified 10 HLA-A02 and 10 HLA-A03-restricted epitopes that are naturally processed in human antigen-presenting cells. For some of these epitopes we were able to demonstrate cross-reactive CD8+ T cell responses, further increasing the coverage afforded by the epitope set against each different arenavirus species. Importantly, we showed that immunization of HLA transgenic mice with an epitope cocktail generated simultaneous CD8+ T cell responses against all 7 arenaviruses, and protected mice against challenge with rVACVs expressing either Old or New World arenavirus glycoproteins. In conclusion, the set of identified epitopes allows broad, non-ethnically biased coverage of all 7 viral species targeted by our studies.
Arenaviruses cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide and are also regarded as a potential bioterrorist threat. CD8+ T cells restricted by class I MHC molecules clearly play a protective role in murine models of arenavirus infection, yet little is known about the epitopes recognized in the context of human class I MHC (HLA). Here, we defined 20 CD8+ T cell epitopes restricted by HLA class I molecules, derived from 7 different species of arenaviruses associated with human disease. To accomplish this task, we utilized epitope predictions, in vitro HLA binding assays, and HLA transgenic mice inoculated with recombinant vaccinia viruses (rVACV) expressing arenavirus antigens. Because our analysis targeted two of the most common HLA types worldwide, we project that the CD8+ T cell epitope set provides broad coverage against diverse ethnic groups within the human population. Furthermore, we show that immunization with a cocktail of these epitopes protects HLA transgenic mice from challenge with rVACV expressing antigens from different arenavirus species. Our findings suggest that a cell-mediated vaccine strategy might be able to protect against infection mediated by multiple arenavirus species.
The nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) structure of a central segment of the previously annotated severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-unique domain (SUD-M, for “middle of the SARS-unique domain”) in SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) nonstructural protein 3 (nsp3) has been determined. SUD-M(513-651) exhibits a macrodomain fold containing the nsp3 residues 528 to 648, and there is a flexibly extended N-terminal tail with the residues 513 to 527 and a C-terminal flexible tail of residues 649 to 651. As a follow-up to this initial result, we also solved the structure of a construct representing only the globular domain of residues 527 to 651 [SUD-M(527-651)]. NMR chemical shift perturbation experiments showed that SUD-M(527-651) binds single-stranded poly(A) and identified the contact area with this RNA on the protein surface, and electrophoretic mobility shift assays then confirmed that SUD-M has higher affinity for purine bases than for pyrimidine bases. In a further search for clues to the function, we found that SUD-M(527-651) has the closest three-dimensional structure homology with another domain of nsp3, the ADP-ribose-1"-phosphatase nsp3b, although the two proteins share only 5% sequence identity in the homologous sequence regions. SUD-M(527-651) also shows three-dimensional structure homology with several helicases and nucleoside triphosphate-binding proteins, but it does not contain the motifs of catalytic residues found in these structural homologues. The combined results from NMR screening of potential substrates and the structure-based homology studies now form a basis for more focused investigations on the role of the SARS-unique domain in viral infection.
This paper describes the structure determination of nsp3a, the N-terminal domain of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) nonstructural protein 3. nsp3a exhibits a ubiquitin-like globular fold of residues 1 to 112 and a flexibly extended glutamic acid-rich domain of residues 113 to 183. In addition to the four β-strands and two α-helices that are common to ubiquitin-like folds, the globular domain of nsp3a contains two short helices representing a feature that has not previously been observed in these proteins. Nuclear magnetic resonance chemical shift perturbations showed that these unique structural elements are involved in interactions with single-stranded RNA. Structural similarities with proteins involved in various cell-signaling pathways indicate possible roles of nsp3a in viral infection and persistence.
Generation of infectious arenavirus-like particles requires the virus RING finger Z protein and surface glycoprotein precursor (GPC) and the correct processing of GPC into GP1, GP2, and a stable signal peptide (SSP). Z is the driving force of arenavirus budding, whereas the GP complex (GPc), consisting of hetero-oligomers of SSP, GP1, and GP2, forms the viral envelope spikes that mediate receptor recognition and cell entry. Based on the roles played by Z and GP in the arenavirus life cycle, we hypothesized that Z and the GPc should interact in a manner required for virion formation. Here, using confocal microscopy and coimmunoprecipitation assays, we provide evidence for subcellular colocalization and biochemical interaction, respectively, of Z and the GPc. Our results from mutation-function analysis reveal that Z myristoylation, but not the Z late (L) or RING domain, is required for Z-GPc interaction. Moreover, Z interacted directly with SSP in the absence of other components of the GPc. We obtained similar results with Z and GPC from the prototypical arenavirus lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus and the hemorrhagic fever arenavirus Lassa fever virus.
The recent emergence of novel pathogenic human and animal coronaviruses has highlighted the need for antiviral therapies that are effective against a spectrum of these viruses. We have used several strains of murine hepatitis virus (MHV) in cell culture and in vivo in mouse models to investigate the antiviral characteristics of peptide-conjugated antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (P-PMOs). Ten P-PMOs directed against various target sites in the viral genome were tested in cell culture, and one of these (5TERM), which was complementary to the 5′ terminus of the genomic RNA, was effective against six strains of MHV. Further studies were carried out with various arginine-rich peptides conjugated to the 5TERM PMO sequence in order to evaluate efficacy and toxicity and thereby select candidates for in vivo testing. In uninfected mice, prolonged P-PMO treatment did not result in weight loss or detectable histopathologic changes. 5TERM P-PMO treatment reduced viral titers in target organs and protected mice against virus-induced tissue damage. Prophylactic 5TERM P-PMO treatment decreased the amount of weight loss associated with infection under most experimental conditions. Treatment also prolonged survival in two lethal challenge models. In some cases of high-dose viral inoculation followed by delayed treatment, 5TERM P-PMO treatment was not protective and increased morbidity in the treated group, suggesting that P-PMO may cause toxic effects in diseased mice that were not apparent in the uninfected animals. However, the strong antiviral effect observed suggests that with further development, P-PMO may provide an effective therapeutic approach against a broad range of coronavirus infections.
The stable signal peptide (SSP) of the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus surface glycoprotein precursor has several unique characteristics. The SSP is unusually long, at 58 amino acids, and contains two hydrophobic domains, and its sequence is highly conserved among both Old and New World arenaviruses. To better understand the functions of the SSP, a panel of point and deletion mutants was created by in vitro mutagenesis to target the highly conserved elements within the SSP. We were also able to confirm critical residues required for separate SSP functions by trans-complementation. Using these approaches, it was possible to resolve functional domains of the SSP. In characterizing our SSP mutants, we discovered that the SSP is involved in several distinct functions within the viral life cycle, beyond translocation of the viral surface glycoprotein precursor into the endoplasmic reticulum lumen. The SSP is required for efficient glycoprotein expression, posttranslational maturation cleavage of GP1 and GP2 by SKI-1/S1P protease, glycoprotein transport to the cell surface plasma membrane, formation of infectious virus particles, and acid pH-dependent glycoprotein-mediated cell fusion.
Mature nonstructural protein-15 (nsp15) from the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) contains a novel uridylate-specific Mn2+-dependent endoribonuclease (NendoU). Structure studies of the full-length form of the obligate hexameric enzyme from two CoVs, SARS-CoV and murine hepatitis virus, and its monomeric homologue, XendoU from Xenopus laevis, combined with mutagenesis studies have implicated several residues in enzymatic activity and the N-terminal domain as the major determinant of hexamerization. However, the tight link between hexamerization and enzyme activity in NendoUs has remained an enigma. Here, we report the structure of a trimmed, monomeric form of SARS-CoV nsp15 (residues 28 to 335) determined to a resolution of 2.9 Å. The catalytic loop (residues 234 to 249) with its two reactive histidines (His 234 and His 249) is dramatically flipped by ∼120° into the active site cleft. Furthermore, the catalytic nucleophile Lys 289 points in a diametrically opposite direction, a consequence of an outward displacement of the supporting loop (residues 276 to 295). In the full-length hexameric forms, these two loops are packed against each other and are stabilized by intimate intersubunit interactions. Our results support the hypothesis that absence of an adjacent monomer due to deletion of the hexamerization domain is the most likely cause for disruption of the active site, offering a structural basis for why only the hexameric form of this enzyme is active.
CD8+ T-cell responses control lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection in H-2b mice. Although antigen-specific responses against LCMV infection are well studied, we found that a significant fraction of the CD8+ CD44hi T-cell response to LCMV in H-2b mice was not accounted for by known epitopes. We screened peptides predicted to bind major histocompatibility complex class I and overlapping 15-mer peptides spanning the complete LCMV proteome for gamma interferon (IFN-γ) induction from CD8+ T cells derived from LCMV-infected H-2b mice. We identified 19 novel epitopes. Together with the 9 previously known, these epitopes account for the total CD8+ CD44hi response. Thus, bystander T-cell activation does not contribute appreciably to the CD8+ CD44hi pool. Strikingly, 15 of the 19 new epitopes were derived from the viral L polymerase, which, until now, was not recognized as a target of the cellular response induced by LCMV infection. The L epitopes induced significant levels of in vivo cytotoxicity and conferred protection against LCMV challenge. Interestingly, protection from viral challenge was best correlated with the cytolytic potential of CD8+ T cells, whereas IFN-γ production and peptide avidity appear to play a lesser role. Taken together, these findings illustrate that the LCMV-specific CD8+ T-cell response is more complex than previously appreciated.