Dengue viruses are mosquito-borne flaviviruses that circulate in nature as four distinct serotypes (DENV1-4). These emerging pathogens are responsible for more than 100 million human infections annually. Severe clinical manifestations of disease are predominantly associated with a secondary infection by a heterotypic DENV serotype. The increased risk of severe disease in DENV-sensitized populations significantly complicates vaccine development, as a vaccine must simultaneously confer protection against all four DENV serotypes. Eliciting a protective tetravalent neutralizing antibody response is a major goal of ongoing vaccine development efforts. However, a recent large clinical trial of a candidate live-attenuated DENV vaccine revealed low protective efficacy despite eliciting a neutralizing antibody response, highlighting the need for a better understanding of the humoral immune response against dengue infection. In this study, we sought to identify epitopes recognized by serotype-specific neutralizing antibodies elicited by monovalent DENV1 vaccination. We constructed a panel of over 50 DENV1 structural gene variants containing substitutions at surface-accessible residues of the envelope (E) protein to match the corresponding DENV2 sequence. Amino acids that contribute to recognition by serotype-specific neutralizing antibodies were identified as DENV mutants with reduced sensitivity to neutralization by DENV1 immune sera, but not cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies elicited by DENV2 vaccination. We identified two mutations (E126K and E157K) that contribute significantly to type-specific recognition by polyclonal DENV1 immune sera. Longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis of sera from 24 participants of a phase I clinical study revealed a markedly reduced capacity to neutralize a E126K/E157K DENV1 variant. Sera from 77% of subjects recognized the E126K/E157K DENV1 variant and DENV2 equivalently (<3-fold difference). These data indicate the type-specific component of the DENV1 neutralizing antibody response to vaccination is strikingly focused on just two amino acids of the E protein. This study provides an important step towards deconvoluting the functional complexity of DENV serology following vaccination.
Despite decades of research, there remains a critical need for a dengue virus (DENV) vaccine. Vaccine development efforts are complicated by a requirement to protect against four DENV serotypes (DENV1-4), and incomplete immunity as a risk factor for severe disease. Antibodies play a major protective role against DENV. However, they also have been implicated in severe clinical manifestations of DENV infection. The antibody response to DENV is composed of antibodies that neutralize only the infecting DENV serotype (type-specific), as well as those that are cross-reactive. Cross-reactive antibodies are hypothesized to contribute to severe dengue following heterologous infections. Identifying DENV epitopes that are targets of type-specific neutralizing antibodies may facilitate vaccine development and the identification of correlates of protection. In this study, we identified amino acids on DENV1 recognized by type-specific neutralizing antibodies elicited by DENV1 vaccination. Our results indicate that the type-specific DENV1 response is remarkably focused on just two regions of the DENV1 envelope protein. Furthermore, a significant contribution of antibodies with this specificity was a common feature among vaccine recipients. This study identifies targets of neutralizing antibodies elicited by DENV1 vaccination and provides an important first step toward identifying epitopes recognized by each component of a tetravalent vaccine.
Pestiviruses express their genome as a single polypeptide that is subsequently cleaved into individual proteins by host- and virus-encoded proteases. The pestivirus N-terminal protease (Npro) is a cysteine autoprotease that cleaves between its own C-terminus and the N-terminus of the core protein. Due to its unique sequence and catalytic site, it forms its own cysteine protease family C53. After self-cleavage, Npro is no longer active as a protease. The released Npro suppresses the induction of the host's type-I interferon-α/β (IFN-α/β) response. Npro binds interferon regulatory factor-3 (IRF3), the key transcriptional activator of IFN-α/β genes, and promotes degradation of IRF3 by the proteasome, thus preventing induction of the IFN-α/β response to pestivirus infection. Here we report the crystal structures of pestivirus Npro. Npro is structurally distinct from other known cysteine proteases and has a novel “clam shell” fold consisting of a protease domain and a zinc-binding domain. The unique fold of Npro allows auto-catalysis at its C-terminus and subsequently conceals the cleavage site in the active site of the protease. Although many viruses interfere with type I IFN induction by targeting the IRF3 pathway, little information is available regarding structure or mechanism of action of viral proteins that interact with IRF3. The distribution of amino acids on the surface of Npro involved in targeting IRF3 for proteasomal degradation provides insight into the nature of Npro's interaction with IRF3. The structures thus establish the mechanism of auto-catalysis and subsequent auto-inhibition of trans-activity of Npro, and its role in subversion of host immune response.
Mammalian cells respond to viral infection by inducing an innate immune response involving interferon-α/β that mediates cellular antiviral defenses. Viruses, in turn, have evolved mechanisms to counter the host's innate immune response by inhibiting the interferon response. Pestiviruses use the virally encoded N-terminal protease (Npro) to suppress interferon-α/β induction. Npro first cleaves itself off from the viral polyprotein using its own cysteine protease activity. Released Npro then interacts with interferon regulatory factor-3 (IRF3), a transcriptional activator of interferon-β, and induces proteasome-mediated degradation of IRF3. We have determined the crystal structure of Npro from classical swine fever virus. Npro has a unique protease fold consisting of two domains. The N-terminal domain carries the protease active site and has the C-terminus, the auto-cleavage site, bound in the active site. Thus, following auto-cleavage at the C-terminus, Npro obstructs the catalytic site preventing further activity, making the protease active only once in its lifetime. The C-terminal domain carries a zinc-binding site that is required for interaction with IRF3. Surface mapping of the Npro residues essential for subversion of interferon induction provides insight into the interaction with IRF3 and its subsequent degradation. To our knowledge, this is the first structure of a direct IRF3 antagonist.
The henipaviruses, represented by Hendra (HeV) and Nipah (NiV) viruses are highly pathogenic zoonotic paramyxoviruses with uniquely broad host tropisms responsible for repeated outbreaks in Australia, Southeast Asia, India and Bangladesh. The high morbidity and mortality rates associated with infection and lack of licensed antiviral therapies make the henipaviruses a potential biological threat to humans and livestock. Henipavirus entry is initiated by the attachment of the G envelope glycoprotein to host cell membrane receptors. Previously, henipavirus-neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies (hmAb) have been isolated using the HeV-G glycoprotein and a human naïve antibody library. One cross-reactive and receptor-blocking hmAb (m102.4) was recently demonstrated to be an effective post-exposure therapy in two animal models of NiV and HeV infection, has been used in several people on a compassionate use basis, and is currently in development for use in humans. Here, we report the crystal structure of the complex of HeV-G with m102.3, an m102.4 derivative, and describe NiV and HeV escape mutants. This structure provides detailed insight into the mechanism of HeV and NiV neutralization by m102.4, and serves as a blueprint for further optimization of m102.4 as a therapeutic agent and for the development of entry inhibitors and vaccines.
Since their initial emergence, henipaviruses have continued to cause spillover events in both human and livestock populations, posing significant biothreats. Currently there are no licensed or approved therapies for treatment of henipavirus infection and the human case mortality rates average >70%. We used X-ray crystallography to determine the high-resolution structures of the Hendra virus G glycoprotein in complex with a cross-reactive neutralizing human monoclonal antibody. The structures provide detailed insight into the mechanism of HeV and NiV neutralization by this potent and clinically-relevant human monoclonal antibody that is currently in development for use in humans. This monoclonal antibody was recently shown to be an effective post-exposure therapy in non-human models of lethal Hendra virus infection. Indeed, it has already been used in four people on a compassionate use request, three in Australia and one in the United States, as a therapeutic agent. Furthermore, we identified and characterized two escape mutants generated in vitro and evaluated their mechanism of escape. Our results serve as a blueprint for further optimization of this antibody and for the development of novel entry inhibitors and vaccines. This report also supports the additional pre-clinical data required for eventual licensure by detailing the antibody's mechanism of henipavirus neutralization.
Hendra virus (HeV) is a recently emerged severe human pathogen that belongs to the Henipavirus genus within the Paramyxoviridae family. The HeV genome is encapsidated by the nucleoprotein (N) within a helical nucleocapsid. Recruitment of the viral polymerase onto the nucleocapsid template relies on the interaction between the C-terminal domain, NTAIL, of N and the C-terminal X domain, XD, of the polymerase co-factor phosphoprotein (P). Here, we provide an atomic resolution description of the intrinsically disordered NTAIL domain in its isolated state and in intact nucleocapsids using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Using electron microscopy, we show that HeV nucleocapsids form herringbone-like structures typical of paramyxoviruses. We also report the crystal structure of XD of P that consists of a three-helix bundle. We study the interaction between NTAIL and XD using NMR titration experiments and provide a detailed mapping of the reciprocal binding sites. We show that the interaction is accompanied by α-helical folding of the molecular recognition element of NTAIL upon binding to a hydrophobic patch on the surface of XD. Finally, using solution NMR, we investigate the interaction between intact nucleocapsids and XD. Our results indicate that monomeric XD binds to NTAIL without triggering an additional unwinding of the nucleocapsid template. The present results provide a structural description at the atomic level of the protein-protein interactions required for transcription and replication of HeV, and the first direct observation of the interaction between the X domain of P and intact nucleocapsids in Paramyxoviridae.
The polymerase of negative strand RNA viruses reads the viral RNA that is associated with the nucleoprotein N forming a helical nucleocapsid. The interaction between N and the cofactor of the polymerase, the phosphoprotein P, is essential for transcription and replication of the viral genome. The mechanism by which the polymerase dislodges the RNA from the nucleoprotein for its polymerising activity remains unknown, although it has been proposed that binding to P causes a conformational change in the nucleocapsid. Here, we use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to develop an atomic resolution description of the intrinsically disordered C-terminal domain, NTAIL, of N of Hendra virus, an emerging paramyxovirus, and X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of the X domain (XD) of P. Characterization of the interaction between XD and NTAIL provides evidence for folding of NTAIL upon binding to P. Crucially, we were also able to study, for the first time, the interaction between XD and recombinant paramyxoviral nucleocapsids. NMR spectra of NTAIL in its isolated form and in the context of nucleocapsids demonstrate that binding of XD does not change the dynamics of NTAIL and that the nucleocapsid does not undergo any major rearrangements or unwinding upon interaction with P.
Abrescia and colleagues demonstrate how the bacteriophage PRD1, a model membrane-containing virus, generates a self-polymerizing protein-lipid nanotube to deliver its viral genome to a host cell.
In internal membrane-containing viruses, a lipid vesicle enclosed by the icosahedral capsid protects the genome. It has been postulated that this internal membrane is the genome delivery device of the virus. Viruses built with this architectural principle infect hosts in all three domains of cellular life. Here, using a combination of electron microscopy techniques, we investigate bacteriophage PRD1, the best understood model for such viruses, to unveil the mechanism behind the genome translocation across the cell envelope. To deliver its double-stranded DNA, the icosahedral protein-rich virus membrane transforms into a tubular structure protruding from one of the 12 vertices of the capsid. We suggest that this viral nanotube exits from the same vertex used for DNA packaging, which is biochemically distinct from the other 11. The tube crosses the capsid through an aperture corresponding to the loss of the peripentonal P3 major capsid protein trimers, penton protein P31 and membrane protein P16. The remodeling of the internal viral membrane is nucleated by changes in osmolarity and loss of capsid-membrane interactions as consequence of the de-capping of the vertices. This engages the polymerization of the tail tube, which is structured by membrane-associated proteins. We have observed that the proteo-lipidic tube in vivo can pierce the gram-negative bacterial cell envelope allowing the viral genome to be shuttled to the host cell. The internal diameter of the tube allows one double-stranded DNA chain to be translocated. We conclude that the assembly principles of the viral tunneling nanotube take advantage of proteo-lipid interactions that confer to the tail tube elastic, mechanical and functional properties employed also in other protein-membrane systems.
Viral survival and propagation depend on the ability of the viruses to transfer their genetic material to a host cell. Viral genome delivery has been described for viruses that directly enclose their genome in a capsid or nucleocapsid, but not for internal membrane-containing viruses in which the genome is protected by a lipid vesicle enclosed by the icosahedral capsid. The latter infect organisms across the three domains of life. We use a range of electron microscopy techniques to reveal how one such virus, the bacteriophage PRD1, which uses gram negative bacteria as its host, delivers its double-stranded DNA to the bacteria across the cell envelope. The PRD1 bacteriophage is special in that it doesn't carry a rigid tail; rather it creates a tube tail when needed at the time of infection to pass its DNA through to the host. We now show that this tube formation is accomplished via concerted restructuring of the icosahedral capsid and remodeling of the internal icosahedral protein-rich virus membrane. We also find that this tail tube is studded with membrane-associated proteins and its internal diameter allows one double-stranded DNA chain to be injected. Finally, we capture PRD1 in 3-D with the proteo-lipidic tail piercing the gram-negative bacterial cell and shuttling its viral genome in vivo. These results provide insights into a new mechanism of viral genome delivery.
Genome packaging for viruses with segmented genomes is often a complex problem. This is particularly true for influenza viruses and other orthomyxoviruses, whose genome consists of multiple negative-sense RNAs encapsidated as ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. To better understand the structural features of orthomyxovirus RNPs that allow them to be packaged, we determined the crystal structure of the nucleoprotein (NP) of a fish orthomyxovirus, the infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAV) (genus Isavirus). As the major protein component of the RNPs, ISAV-NP possesses a bi-lobular structure similar to the influenza virus NP. Because both RNA-free and RNA-bound ISAV NP forms stable dimers in solution, we were able to measure the NP RNA binding affinity as well as the stoichiometry using recombinant proteins and synthetic oligos. Our RNA binding analysis revealed that each ISAV-NP binds ∼12 nts of RNA, shorter than the 24–28 nts originally estimated for the influenza A virus NP based on population average. The 12-nt stoichiometry was further confirmed by results from electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. Considering that RNPs of ISAV and the influenza viruses have similar morphologies and dimensions, our findings suggest that NP-free RNA may exist on orthomyxovirus RNPs, and selective RNP packaging may be accomplished through direct RNA-RNA interactions.
Orthomyxoviruses are a family of RNA viruses that include the various types of influenza viruses. The genome of orthomyxoviruses consists of multiple segments of negative-sense, single-stranded RNA molecules, each packaged in the form of rod-shaped, double-helical ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. How different RNPs interact with each other to ensure specific genome packaging is a long-standing question and crucial to our understanding of orthomyxovirus replication and influenza virus gene reassortment. Our study of a fish orthomyxovirus, the infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAV), shows that its nucleoprotein (NP), which forms the protein scaffold backbone of the viral RNP, has a bi-lobular structure like the influenza virus NP. Because ISAV-NP forms stable dimers in solution, we were able to determine ISAV-NP RNA binding stoichiometry by biochemical assays, electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. Our results indicate that each ISAV-NP binds ∼12-nt RNA, shorter than the 24–28 nts originally estimated for the influenza A virus based on population average. We propose that NP-free RNA exists on orthomyxovirus RNPs, and such RNA regions likely mediate specific RNP-RNP interactions during genome packaging. Further elucidation of the RNA-mediated RNP-RNP interactions will help us determine the molecular basis of gene reassortment by orthomyxoviruses including the influenza viruses.
Paramyxoviruses cause a wide variety of human and animal diseases. They infect host cells using the coordinated action of two surface glycoproteins, the receptor binding protein (HN, H, or G) and the fusion protein (F). HN binds sialic acid on host cells (hemagglutinin activity) and hydrolyzes these receptors during viral egress (neuraminidase activity, NA). Additionally, receptor binding is thought to induce a conformational change in HN that subsequently triggers major refolding in homotypic F, resulting in fusion of virus and target cell membranes. HN is an oligomeric type II transmembrane protein with a short cytoplasmic domain and a large ectodomain comprising a long helical stalk and large globular head domain containing the enzymatic functions (NA domain). Extensive biochemical characterization has revealed that HN-stalk residues determine F specificity and activation. However, the F/HN interaction and the mechanisms whereby receptor binding regulates F activation are poorly defined. Recently, a structure of Newcastle disease virus (NDV) HN ectodomain revealed the heads (NA domains) in a “4-heads-down” conformation whereby two of the heads form a symmetrical interaction with two sides of the stalk. The interface includes stalk residues implicated in triggering F, and the heads sterically shield these residues from interaction with F (at least on two sides). Here we report the x-ray crystal structure of parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5) HN ectodomain in a “2-heads-up/2-heads-down” conformation where two heads (covalent dimers) are in the “down position,” forming a similar interface as observed in the NDV HN ectodomain structure, and two heads are in an “up position.” The structure supports a model in which the heads of HN transition from down to up upon receptor binding thereby releasing steric constraints and facilitating the interaction between critical HN-stalk residues and F.
Paramyxoviruses comprise a large family of significant pathogens including Newcastle disease virus (NDV), parainfluenza viruses 1-5 (PIV1-5), respiratory syncytial virus, the highly transmissible measles virus, and the emerging and deadly Nipah and Hendra viruses. Five paramyxoviruses are U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture “select agents,” and prevention and/or treatment of these viruses is a public health priority. Paramyxoviruses infect host cells through the concerted action of a “mushroom-shaped” receptor binding protein (HN, H, or G) and fusion protein (F) on the viral surface. However, despite numerous biochemical and structural insights, many details remain unknown about how these proteins interact and the mechanism by which the interaction triggers membrane fusion. Here we present the X-ray crystal structure of the PIV5 HN ectodomain comprised of a large fragment of the stalk and complete head domains. The structure reveals a unique conformation that is a hybrid of that seen in previous NDV ectodomain and PIV5 attachment protein head domain structures. A high-resolution view of the different orientations that head domains can adopt combined with recent biochemical data suggest a simple mechanism for paramyxovirus fusion. These new insights will help guide vaccine and inhibitor discovery efforts for paramyxoviruses.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an important human pathogen. Its nucleocapsid (NC), which comprises the negative sense RNA viral genome coated by the viral nucleoprotein N, is a critical assembly that serves as template for both mRNA synthesis and genome replication. We have previously described the X-ray structure of an NC-like structure: a decameric ring formed of N-RNA that mimics one turn of the helical NC. In the absence of experimental data we had hypothesized that the NC helix would be right-handed, as the N–N contacts in the ring appeared to more easily adapt to that conformation. We now unambiguously show that the RSV NC is a left-handed helix. We further show that the contacts in the ring can be distorted to maintain key N–N-protein interactions in a left-handed helix, and discuss the implications of the resulting atomic model of the helical NC for viral replication and transcription.
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.
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.
Upon infection, many RNA viruses reorganize their capsid for release of the genome into the host cell cytosol for replication. Often, this process is triggered by receptor binding and/or by the acidic environment in endosomes. In the genus Enterovirus, which includes more than 150 human rhinovirus (HRV) serotypes causing the common cold, there is persuasive evidence that the viral RNA exits single-stranded through channels formed in the protein shell. We have determined the time-dependent emergence of the RNA ends from HRV2 on incubation of virions at 56°C using hybridization with specific oligonucleotides and detection by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. We report that psoralen UV crosslinking prevents complete RNA release, allowing for identification of the sequences remaining inside the capsid. We also present the structure of uncoating intermediates in which parts of the RNA are condensed and take the form of a rod that is directed roughly towards a two-fold icosahedral axis, the presumed RNA exit point. Taken together, in contrast to schemes frequently depicted in textbooks and reviews, our findings demonstrate that exit of the RNA starts from the 3′-end. This suggests that packaging also occurs in an ordered manner resulting in the 3′-poly-(A) tail becoming located close to a position of pore formation during conversion of the virion into a subviral particle. This directional genome release may be common to many icosahedral non-enveloped single-stranded RNA viruses.
Viral infection requires safe transfer of the viral genome from within the protective protein shell into the host cell's cytosol. For many viruses this happens after uptake into endosomes, where receptor-binding and/or the acidic pH trigger conformational modifications or disassembly of the shell, allowing the nucleic acids to escape. For example, common cold viruses are converted into subviral particles still containing the single-stranded positive sense RNA genome; subsequently, the RNA escapes into the cytoplasm, leaving behind empty capsids. We triggered this process by heating HRV2 to 56°C and found that 3′- and 5′-end emerged with different kinetics. Crosslinking prevented complete RNA egress and upon nuclease digestion only sequences derived from the 5′-end were protected. Part of the RNA remaining within the viral shell adopted a rod-like shape pointing towards one of the two-fold axes where the RNA is presumed to exit in single-stranded form. Egress thus commences with the poly-(A) tail and not with the genome-linked peptide VPg. This suggests that assembly and uncoating are well-coordinated to avoid tangling, kinetic traps, and/or simultaneous exit of the two RNA ends at different sites.
Isolated influenza A virus nucleoprotein exists in an equilibrium between monomers and trimers. Samples containing only monomers or only trimers can be stabilized by respectively low and high salt. The trimers bind RNA with high affinity but remain trimmers, whereas the monomers polymerise onto RNA forming nucleoprotein-RNA complexes. When wild type (wt) nucleoprotein is crystallized, it forms trimers, whether one starts with monomers or trimers. We therefore crystallized the obligate monomeric R416A mutant nucleoprotein and observed how the domain exchange loop that leads over to a neighbouring protomer in the trimer structure interacts with equivalent sites on the mutant monomer surface, avoiding polymerisation. The C-terminus of the monomer is bound to the side of the RNA binding surface, lowering its positive charge. Biophysical characterization of the mutant and wild type monomeric proteins gives the same results, suggesting that the exchange domain is folded in the same way for the wild type protein. In a search for how monomeric wt nucleoprotein may be stabilized in the infected cell we determined the phosphorylation sites on nucleoprotein isolated from virus particles. We found that serine 165 was phosphorylated and conserved in all influenza A and B viruses. The S165D mutant that mimics phosphorylation is monomeric and displays a lowered affinity for RNA compared with wt monomeric NP. This suggests that phosphorylation may regulate the polymerisation state and RNA binding of nucleoprotein in the infected cell. The monomer structure could be used for finding new anti influenza drugs because compounds that stabilize the monomer may slow down viral infection.
The RNAs of negative strand RNA viruses are encapsidated by their specific viral nucleoproteins, forming helical nucleoprotein-RNA structures that are the template for transcription and replication. All these nucleoproteins have two activities in common: RNA binding and self-polymerisation, and it is likely that these activities are coupled. All these viruses have to keep their nucleoprotein from binding to cellular RNA and from polymerisation before viral RNA binding. The non-segmented viruses solve this by coding for a phosphoprotein that binds to the nucleoprotein, blocking both activities. The segmented viruses, such as influenza and Bunyaviruses, do not code for a phosphoprotein and need to solve this problem differently. Here we present the atomic structure of monomeric influenza virus nucleoprotein. Although the structures of the influenza virus and the Rift Valley Fever Virus (Bunya virus) nucleoproteins are different, there are functional similarities when the monomer and polymer structures are compared. Both nucleoproteins have a core structure that is identical in the monomer and the polymer. They contain a flexible arm that moves over to a neighbouring protomer in the polymer structure but that folds onto the core in the monomer structure, hiding the RNA binding groove in the Rift valley Fever Virus nucleoprotein and modifying the electrostatic potential of the RNA binding platform of the influenza virus protein.
Foot-and-mouth disease remains a major plague of livestock and outbreaks are often economically catastrophic. Current inactivated virus vaccines require expensive high containment facilities for their production and maintenance of a cold-chain for their activity. We have addressed both of these major drawbacks. Firstly we have developed methods to efficiently express recombinant empty capsids. Expression constructs aimed at lowering the levels and activity of the viral protease required for the cleavage of the capsid protein precursor were used; this enabled the synthesis of empty A-serotype capsids in eukaryotic cells at levels potentially attractive to industry using both vaccinia virus and baculovirus driven expression. Secondly we have enhanced capsid stability by incorporating a rationally designed mutation, and shown by X-ray crystallography that stabilised and wild-type empty capsids have essentially the same structure as intact virus. Cattle vaccinated with recombinant capsids showed sustained virus neutralisation titres and protection from challenge 34 weeks after immunization. This approach to vaccine antigen production has several potential advantages over current technologies by reducing production costs, eliminating the risk of infectivity and enhancing the temperature stability of the product. Similar strategies that will optimize host cell viability during expression of a foreign toxic gene and/or improve capsid stability could allow the production of safe vaccines for other pathogenic picornaviruses of humans and animals.
Picornaviruses are small RNA viruses, responsible for important human and animal diseases for example polio, some forms of the common cold and foot-and-mouth disease. Safe and effective picornavirus vaccines could in principle be produced from recombinant virus-like particles, which lack the viral genome and so cannot propagate. However the synthesis of stable forms of such particles at scale has proved very difficult. Two key problems have been that a protease required for the proper processing of the polyprotein precursor is toxic for host cells and the empty recombinant particles tend to be physically unstable in comparison to virus particles containing nucleic acid. This is particularly true in the case of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus (FMDV). Here we report the production and evaluation of a novel vaccine against FMDV that addresses both of these shortcomings. Importantly, the strategies we have devised to produce improved FMDV vaccines can be directly applied to viruses pathogenic for humans.
Since its discovery in 1969, enterovirus 71 (EV71) has emerged as a serious worldwide health threat. This human pathogen of the picornavirus family causes hand, foot, and mouth disease, and also has the capacity to invade the central nervous system to cause severe disease and death. Upon binding to a host receptor on the cell surface, the virus begins a two-step uncoating process, first forming an expanded, altered “A-particle”, which is primed for genome release. In a second step after endocytosis, an unknown trigger leads to RNA expulsion, generating an intact, empty capsid. Cryo-electron microscopy reconstructions of these two capsid states provide insight into the mechanics of genome release. The EV71 A-particle capsid interacts with the genome near the icosahedral two-fold axis of symmetry, which opens to the external environment via a channel ∼10 Å in diameter that is lined with patches of negatively charged residues. After the EV71 genome has been released, the two-fold channel shrinks, though the overall capsid dimensions are conserved. These structural characteristics identify the two-fold channel as the site where a gateway forms and regulates the process of genome release.
In a picornavirus capsid structural integrity must not be compromised until a key mechanism triggers genome release into a permissive cell. It has long been established that the majority of members of the picornavirus family solve this dilemma with a two-step uncoating process initiated by receptor recognition. For human enteroviruses, binding of an entry receptor triggers a series of conformational changes, resulting in an “A-particle” that is primed for genome release. After endocytosis, an unknown trigger causes the A-particle to expel the viral genome, leaving behind an emptied capsid. This process can be mimicked in solution by heating mature virus. Though the capsid species for both of these steps have been isolated, the fine details of the uncoating process have yet to be elucidated. Cryo-electron microscopy reconstructions of the enterovirus 71 A-particle and empty capsid provide compelling structural evidence to suggest that the icosahedral two-fold axis opens a channel that acts as a gateway in the viral capsid, regulating the release of genomic material from the altered particle.
We previously developed a panel of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against Dengue virus (DENV)-1, of which few exhibited inhibitory activity against all DENV-1 genotypes. This finding is consistent with reports observing variable neutralization of different DENV strains and genotypes using serum from individuals that experienced natural infection or immunization. Herein, we describe the crystal structures of DENV1-E111 bound to a novel CC′ loop epitope on domain III (DIII) of the E protein from two different DENV-1 genotypes. Docking of our structure onto the available cryo-electron microscopy models of DENV virions revealed that the DENV1-E111 epitope was inaccessible, suggesting that this antibody recognizes an uncharacterized virus conformation. While the affinity of binding between DENV1-E111 and DIII varied by genotype, we observed limited correlation with inhibitory activity. Instead, our results support the conclusion that potent neutralization depends on genotype-dependent exposure of the CC′ loop epitope. These findings establish new structural complexity of the DENV virion, which may be relevant for the choice of DENV strain for induction or analysis of neutralizing antibodies in the context of vaccine development.
Within each Dengue virus (DENV) serotype, viruses are subdivided into genotypes based upon the protein sequence variation. Infection with a given serotype is believed to induce neutralizing antibodies that provide long-term immunity against secondary infection by a strain of the same serotype. However, recent studies suggest that some classes of neutralizing antibodies fail to inhibit infection equivalently for all genotypes within a DENV serotype. DENV1-E111 is an example of an antibody that differentially neutralizes infection of DENV-1 strains. We used structural and molecular approaches to determine that DENV1-E111 binds to an epitope in domain III of the envelope protein. Although the epitope sequence varied between DENV-1 genotypes, inhibitory activity of the antibody remained unequal when we exchanged the amino acids within the epitope among genotypes. Docking of our structures onto DENV virion models revealed that the DENV1-E111 epitope was inaccessible, suggesting that the antibody recognizes an uncharacterized virus conformation. Our studies suggest that DENV virion structures differ in a genotype-dependent manner, which can impact the inhibitory activity of antibodies that recognize cryptic epitopes.
Two classes of antiviral drugs, neuraminidase inhibitors and adamantanes, are approved for prophylaxis and therapy against influenza virus infections. A major concern is that antiviral resistant viruses emerge and spread in the human population. The 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus is already resistant to adamantanes. Recently, a novel neuraminidase inhibitor resistance mutation I223R was identified in the neuraminidase of this subtype. To understand the resistance mechanism of this mutation, the enzymatic properties of the I223R mutant, together with the most frequently observed resistance mutation, H275Y, and the double mutant I223R/H275Y were compared. Relative to wild type, KM values for MUNANA increased only 2-fold for the single I223R mutant and up to 8-fold for the double mutant. Oseltamivir inhibition constants (KI) increased 48-fold in the single I223R mutant and 7500-fold in the double mutant. In both cases the change was largely accounted for by an increased dissociation rate constant for oseltamivir, but the inhibition constants for zanamivir were less increased. We have used X-ray crystallography to better understand the effect of mutation I223R on drug binding. We find that there is shrinkage of a hydrophobic pocket in the active site as a result of the I223R change. Furthermore, R223 interacts with S247 which changes the rotamer it adopts and, consequently, binding of the pentoxyl substituent of oseltamivir is not as favorable as in the wild type. However, the polar glycerol substituent present in zanamivir, which mimics the natural substrate, is accommodated in the I223R mutant structure in a similar way to wild type, thus explaining the kinetic data. Our structural data also show that, in contrast to a recently reported structure, the active site of 2009 pandemic neuraminidase can adopt an open conformation.
Recently, a pandemic A/H1N1 influenza virus was isolated from an immune compromised patient with a novel antiviral resistance pattern to the neuraminidase inhibitor class of drugs. This virus had an amino acid change in the viral neuraminidase enzyme; an isoleucine at position 223 was substituted by an arginine (I223R). Patients infected with such a virus leave physicians with reduced antiviral treatment options, since pandemic viruses are naturally resistant to the other class of antivirals, the adamantanes. Previously, we have shown that this mutant virus retains its potential to cause disease and may still be able to spread in the human population.
Here we used enzyme kinetic measurements and crystal structures of the I223R mutant neuraminidase to determine the resistance mechanism of this amino acid change. We found that the I223R change results in shrinkage of the active site of the enzyme. As a result, binding of the neuraminidase inhibitors is affected. In addition, we found that the active site of our pandemic neuraminidase structure, crystallized in the absence of inhibitor, has an extra cavity (150-cavity) adjacent to the active site. Our study could aid in the development of novel inhibitors designed to target the 150-cavity and active site of the enzyme.
The Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) double-stranded DNA genome is reverse transcribed from its RNA pregenome (pgRNA) within the virus core (or capsid). Phosphorylation of the arginine-rich carboxy-terminal domain (CTD) of the HBV capsid protein (Cp183) is essential for pgRNA encapsidation and reverse transcription. However, the structure of the CTD remains poorly defined. Here we report sub-nanometer resolution cryo-EM structures of in vitro assembled empty and pgRNA-filled Cp183 capsids in unphosphorylated and phosphorylation-mimic states. In empty capsids, we found unexpected evidence of surface accessible CTD density partially occluding pores in the capsid surface. We also observed that CTD organization changed substantively as a function of phosphorylation. In RNA-filled capsids, unphosphorylated CTDs favored thick ropes of RNA, while the phosphorylation-mimic favored a mesh of thin, high-density strands suggestive of single stranded RNA. These results demonstrate that the CTD can regulate nucleic acid structure, supporting the hypothesis that the HBV capsid has a functional role as a nucleic acid chaperone.
Many single stranded RNA virus encapsidate their genome through positively-charged domains of their capsid proteins. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a double stranded DNA virus which packages a single-stranded RNA pregenome (pgRNA) that is reverse transcribed within the capsid. RNA packaging requires a phosphorylated form of the HBV capsid protein's RNA-binding carboxy-terminal domain (CTD). Although the capsid has been well studied, the internal structures, the CTDs and the packaged RNA, are poorly characterized. By using in vitro reassembly, we have generated empty and pgRNA-filled capsids using phosphorylation-mimic and unphosphorylated forms of the capsid protein. Using cryo-EM image reconstruction, we have been able to show the structure of encapsidated pgRNA and, independently, the CTD in the absence of RNA to visualize early stages of the HBV assembly. We showed that the structural organization of the CTD changes as a function of the phosphorylation. Changes in CTD structure affect the structure of the encapsidated pgRNA, changing it from thin segments of density in the phosphorylated state, suggestive of single-stranded RNA, to thick rope-like structures consistent with duplex nucleic acid in the unphosphorylated state.
Filoviruses, including Marburg virus (MARV) and Ebola virus (EBOV), cause fatal hemorrhagic fever in humans and non-human primates. All filoviruses encode a unique multi-functional protein termed VP35. The C-terminal double-stranded (ds)RNA-binding domain (RBD) of VP35 has been implicated in interferon antagonism and immune evasion. Crystal structures of the VP35 RBD from two ebolaviruses have previously demonstrated that the viral protein caps the ends of dsRNA. However, it is not yet understood how the expanses of dsRNA backbone, between the ends, are masked from immune surveillance during filovirus infection. Here, we report the crystal structure of MARV VP35 RBD bound to dsRNA. In the crystal structure, molecules of dsRNA stack end-to-end to form a pseudo-continuous oligonucleotide. This oligonucleotide is continuously and completely coated along its sugar-phosphate backbone by the MARV VP35 RBD. Analysis of dsRNA binding by dot-blot and isothermal titration calorimetry reveals that multiple copies of MARV VP35 RBD can indeed bind the dsRNA sugar-phosphate backbone in a cooperative manner in solution. Further, MARV VP35 RBD can also cap the ends of the dsRNA in solution, although this arrangement was not captured in crystals. Together, these studies suggest that MARV VP35 can both coat the backbone and cap the ends, and that for MARV, coating of the dsRNA backbone may be an essential mechanism by which dsRNA is masked from backbone-sensing immune surveillance molecules.
Filoviruses, Marburg virus and five ebolaviruses, cause severe hemorrhagic fever that is characterized by suppression of the innate immune system. Important to immunosuppression is the viral protein VP35, which binds to and masks double-stranded (ds)RNA, a key signature of virus infection that is recognized by host sentry proteins like RIG-I and MDA-5. Previous crystal structures of VP35 from two ebolaviruses showed it to form an asymmetric dimer to cap the ends of dsRNA molecules. However, the question remained whether VP35 could mask remaining lengths of dsRNA between the ends from immune surveillance. Here we present the crystal structure of the dsRNA-binding domain (RBD) of Marburg virus VP35, alone and in complex with dsRNA. This crystal structure presents a very different arrangement of VP35s on dsRNA. Rather than binding only the ends, the Marburg virus VP35s spiral around the dsRNA backbone, continuously coating it. Additional biochemical experiments indicate that this continuous coating occurs in solution, and that like the ebolaviruses, Marburg virus VP35 is also able to cap the dsRNA ends, even though this was not apparent in the crystal structure. Together, this work illustrates how Marburg virus VP35 prevents recognition of dsRNA by backbone-sensing immune sentry molecules and provides an additional avenue for antiviral development.
Paramyxovirus hemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) plays roles in viral entry and maturation, including binding to sialic acid receptors, activation of the F protein to drive membrane fusion, and enabling virion release during virus budding. HN can thereby directly influence virulence and in a subset of avirulent Newcastle disease virus (NDV) strains, such as NDV Ulster, HN must be proteolytically activated to remove a C-terminal extension not found in other NDV HN proteins. Ulster HN is 616 amino acids long and the 45 amino acid C-terminal extension present in its precursor (HN0) form has to be cleaved to render HN biologically active. Here we show that Ulster HN contains an inter-subunit disulfide bond within the C-terminal extension at residue 596, which regulates HN activities and neuraminidase (NA) domain dimerization. We determined the crystal structure of the dimerized NA domain containing the C-terminal extension, which extends along the outside of the sialidase β-propeller domain and inserts C-terminal residues into the NA domain active site. The C-terminal extension also engages a secondary sialic acid binding site present in NDV HN proteins, which is located at the NA domain dimer interface, that most likely blocks its attachment function. These results clarify how the Ulster HN C-terminal residues lead to an auto-inhibited state of HN, the requirement for proteolytic activation of HN0 and associated reduced virulence.
Newcastle disease virus (NDV) can cause severe disease in birds, with the most virulent strains causing sudden death, even in vaccinated populations in the poultry industry. Highly virulent exotic NDV (END) strains have caused largescale outbreaks in the US in 1971 and 2003, requiring the culling of 12 million and 3 million chickens, respectively. Additional economic costs were associated with containment and cleanup. NDV strains vary greatly in their virulence and ability to cause such outbreaks. Two proteins at the surface of the virus, the hemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) and the fusion (F) protein, activate NDV entry into cells and variations in both proteins are linked to differences in strain-specific virulence. Certain avirulent strains of NDV, such as NDV Ulster, express a longer HN protein with a C-terminal segment that must be proteolytically cleaved to fully activate the protein. Here we demonstrate that the extra C-terminal 45 amino acids of NDV Ulster HN adopt a well-defined structure, not present in the shorter HN proteins from virulent strains, that blocks two key receptor binding regions necessary for attachment to cells and virus entry. The results clarify how this unique evolutionary adaptation suppresses HN functions in avirulent NDV strains, consistent with an important role for this region in modulating NDV pathogenicity.
HIV-1 infection begins with the binding of trimeric viral envelope glycoproteins (Env) to CD4 and a co-receptor on target T-cells. Understanding how these ligands influence the structure of Env is of fundamental interest for HIV vaccine development. Using cryo-electron microscopy, we describe the contrasting structural outcomes of trimeric Env binding to soluble CD4, to the broadly neutralizing, CD4-binding site antibodies VRC01, VRC03 and b12, or to the monoclonal antibody 17b, a co-receptor mimic. Binding of trimeric HIV-1 BaL Env to either soluble CD4 or 17b alone, is sufficient to trigger formation of the open quaternary conformation of Env. In contrast, VRC01 locks Env in the closed state, while b12 binding requires a partial opening in the quaternary structure of trimeric Env. Our results show that, despite general similarities in regions of the HIV-1 gp120 polypeptide that contact CD4, VRC01, VRC03 and b12, there are important differences in quaternary structures of the complexes these ligands form on native trimeric Env, and potentially explain differences in the neutralizing breadth and potency of antibodies with similar specificities. From cryo-electron microscopic analysis at ∼9 Å resolution of a cleaved, soluble version of trimeric Env, we show that a structural signature of the open Env conformation is a three-helix motif composed of α-helical segments derived from highly conserved, non-glycosylated N-terminal regions of the gp41 trimer. The three N-terminal gp41 helices in this novel, activated Env conformation are held apart by their interactions with the rest of Env, and are less compactly packed than in the post-fusion, six-helix bundle state. These findings suggest a new structural template for designing immunogens that can elicit antibodies targeting HIV at a vulnerable, pre-entry stage.
HIV infection occurs following the binding of viral envelope glycoproteins (Env) to receptors on target cell surfaces. Binding to these molecules induces conformational changes in Env, ultimately leading to the exposure of a viral fusion peptide and fusion of viral and cellular membranes. Understanding the structure of Env at each step during HIV entry is of fundamental importance in the design of compounds that can combat infection. Here, we use cryo-electron tomography to characterize the conformational changes that occur in Env at individual steps in the entry process, revealing the unexpected finding that binding to a co-receptor mimic alone induces the same conformational changes as binding to CD4. Furthermore, using single particle cryo-electron microscopy, we show structural evidence, at sub-nanometer resolution, of a novel, activated intermediate state of HIV where highly conserved, interior components of the viral spike are exposed. We show that transition to this state can be blocked by addition of a highly neutralizing antibody, VRC01, revealing a possible mechanism for its potent neutralizing ability. Discovery of the structure of this new Env intermediate provides a template for the design of immunogens aimed at eliciting antibodies that could block HIV entry.
Ebolaviruses cause hemorrhagic fever with up to 90% lethality and in fatal cases, are characterized by early suppression of the host innate immune system. One of the proteins likely responsible for this effect is VP24. VP24 is known to antagonize interferon signaling by binding host karyopherin α proteins, thereby preventing them from transporting the tyrosine-phosphorylated transcription factor STAT1 to the nucleus. Here, we report that VP24 binds STAT1 directly, suggesting that VP24 can suppress at least two distinct branches of the interferon pathway. Here, we also report the first crystal structures of VP24, derived from different species of ebolavirus that are pathogenic (Sudan) and nonpathogenic to humans (Reston). These structures reveal that VP24 has a novel, pyramidal fold. A site on a particular face of the pyramid exhibits reduced solvent exchange when in complex with STAT1. This site is above two highly conserved pockets in VP24 that contain key residues previously implicated in virulence. These crystal structures and accompanying biochemical analysis map differences between pathogenic and nonpathogenic viruses, offer templates for drug design, and provide the three-dimensional framework necessary for biological dissection of the many functions of VP24 in the virus life cycle.
Ebolaviruses cause severe hemorrhagic fever that is exacerbated by immediate suppression of host immune function. VP24, one of only eight proteins encoded by ebolaviruses, functions in virus replication and assembly, and is thought to contribute to immune suppression by binding to a certain class of molecules called karyopherins to prevent them from transporting a transcription factor termed STAT1. Here we report that VP24 is also able to directly bind STAT1 by itself, and thereby likely contributes to immune suppression by an additional mechanism. Analysis of these multiple roles of VP24 and design of drugs against them have been hindered by the lack of structural information on VP24 and its lack of homology to any other known protein. Hence, here we also present X-ray structures of VP24 derived from two different ebolavirus species that are pathogenic and nonpathogenic to humans. These structures and accompanying deuterium exchange mass spectrometry identify the likely binding site of STAT1 onto VP24, map sites that are conserved or differ between pathogenic and nonpathogenic species, and provide the critical 3D templates by which we may dissect and interpret the many roles that VP24 plays in the virus life cycle.
Upon attachment to their respective receptor, human rhinoviruses (HRVs) are internalized into the host cell via different pathways but undergo similar structural changes. This ultimately results in the delivery of the viral RNA into the cytoplasm for replication. To improve our understanding of the conformational modifications associated with the release of the viral genome, we have determined the X-ray structure at 3.0 Å resolution of the end-stage of HRV2 uncoating, the empty capsid. The structure shows important conformational changes in the capsid protomer. In particular, a hinge movement around the hydrophobic pocket of VP1 allows a coordinated shift of VP2 and VP3. This overall displacement forces a reorganization of the inter-protomer interfaces, resulting in a particle expansion and in the opening of new channels in the capsid core. These new breaches in the capsid, opening one at the base of the canyon and the second at the particle two-fold axes, might act as gates for the externalization of the VP1 N-terminus and the extrusion of the viral RNA, respectively. The structural comparison between native and empty HRV2 particles unveils a number of pH-sensitive amino acid residues, conserved in rhinoviruses, which participate in the structural rearrangements involved in the uncoating process.
Human Rhinoviruses (HRVs), members of the Picornaviridae family, are small non-enveloped viruses possessing an icosahedral capsid that protects the single-stranded RNA genome. Although much is known about their binding to cell receptors and their uptake into the host cell, the mechanism by which their genomic RNA leaves the capsid and arrives to the cytosol to initiate replication is poorly understood. In HRV2, a member of the minor group HRVs, upon binding to lipoprotein receptors (LDL-R) on the cell surface virions are taken up into vesicles and directed to early endosomes. The low pH conditions found in the endosome, and not the binding to LDL-R, catalyze the delivery of the viral genome. The crystal structure of the HRV2 empty particle, representing the last stage of the uncoating process, unveils the structural rearrangements produced in the viral capsid during the externalization of the VP1 N-terminus and the delivery of the genomic RNA. We propose that RNA exit occurs through large capsid disruptions that are produced at the particle two-fold symmetry axes. Our data also suggests that the VP1 N-terminus would be externalized through a new pore, opening at the canyon floor.
Single-chain variable fragment (scFvs) antibodies are small polypeptides (∼26 kD) containing the heavy (VH) and light (VL) immunoglobulin domains of a parent antibody connected by a flexible linker. In addition to being frequently used in diagnostics and therapy for an increasing number of human diseases, scFvs are important tools for structural biology as crystallization chaperones. Although scFvs can be expressed in many different organisms, the expression level of an scFv strongly depends on its particular amino acid sequence. We report here a system allowing for easy and efficient cloning of (i) scFvs selected by phage display and (ii) individual heavy and light chain sequences from hybridoma cDNA into expression plasmids engineered for secretion of the recombinant fragment produced in Drosophila S2 cells. We validated the method by producing five scFvs derived from human and murine parent antibodies directed against various antigens. The production yields varied between 5 and 12 mg monomeric scFv per liter of supernatant, indicating a relative independence on the individual sequences. The recombinant scFvs bound their cognate antigen with high affinity, comparable with the parent antibodies. The suitability of the produced recombinant fragments for structural studies was demonstrated by crystallization and structure determination of one of the produced scFvs, derived from a broadly neutralizing antibody against the major glycoprotein E2 of the hepatitis C virus. Structural comparison with the Protein Data Bank revealed the typical spatial organization of VH and VL domains, further validating the here-reported expression system.
crystallization; Drosophila S2; expression system; monomeric; scFv
Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5N1 subtype continue to threaten agriculture and human health. Here, we use biochemistry and x-ray crystallography to reveal how amino-acid variations in the hemagglutinin (HA) protein contribute to the pathogenicity of H5N1 influenza virus in chickens. HA proteins from highly pathogenic (HP) A/chicken/Hong Kong/YU562/2001 and moderately pathogenic (MP) A/goose/Hong Kong/437-10/1999 isolates of H5N1 were found to be expressed and cleaved in similar amounts, and both proteins had similar receptor-binding properties. However, amino-acid variations at positions 104 and 115 in the vestigial esterase sub-domain of the HA1 receptor-binding domain (RBD) were found to modulate the pH of HA activation such that the HP and MP HA proteins are activated for membrane fusion at pH 5.7 and 5.3, respectively. In general, an increase in H5N1 pathogenicity in chickens was found to correlate with an increase in the pH of HA activation for mutant and chimeric HA proteins in the observed range of pH 5.2 to 6.0. We determined a crystal structure of the MP HA protein at 2.50 Å resolution and two structures of HP HA at 2.95 and 3.10 Å resolution. Residues 104 and 115 that modulate the acid stability of the HA protein are situated at the N- and C-termini of the 110-helix in the vestigial esterase sub-domain, which interacts with the B loop of the HA2 stalk domain. Interactions between the 110-helix and the stalk domain appear to be important in regulating HA protein acid stability, which in turn modulates influenza virus replication and pathogenesis. Overall, an optimal activation pH of the HA protein is found to be necessary for high pathogenicity by H5N1 influenza virus in avian species.
To deliver their genomes into host cells during entry, enveloped viruses contain glycoproteins that bind to cellular receptors and cause fusion of viral and cellular membranes. The influenza virus HA protein is the archetypal viral fusion glycoprotein, promoting entry by undergoing irreversible structural changes that drive membrane merger. HA trimers on the surfaces of infectious influenza virions are trapped in a metastable, high-energy conformation and are triggered to refold and cause membrane fusion after the virus is internalized and exposed to low pH. Here, we provide biochemical and x-ray crystallographic evidence that naturally occurring amino-acid variations at the interface of the vestigial esterase and fusogenic stalk domains alter HA acid stability for highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza, resulting in a shift in the threshold pH required to activate HA protein structural changes that cause membrane fusion. Furthermore, our data reveals that an increased HA activation pH correlates with increased H5N1 virulence in chickens. Overall, the acid stability of the HA protein is identified as a novel virulence factor for emerging H5N1 influenza viruses. A major implication of this work is that the fitness of enveloped viruses may be fine-tuned by mutations that alter the activation energy thresholds of their fusion glycoproteins.
Among the four non-structural proteins of alphaviruses the function of nsP3 is the least well understood. NsP3 is a component of the viral replication complex, and composed of a conserved aminoterminal macro domain implicated in viral RNA synthesis, and a poorly conserved carboxyterminal region. Despite the lack of overall homology we noted a carboxyterminal proline-rich sequence motif shared by many alphaviral nsP3 proteins, and found it to serve as a preferred target site for the Src-homology 3 (SH3) domains of amphiphysin-1 and -2. Nsp3 proteins of Semliki Forest (SFV), Sindbis (SINV), and Chikungunya viruses all showed avid and SH3-dependent binding to amphiphysins. Upon alphavirus infection the intracellular distribution of amphiphysin was dramatically altered and colocalized with nsP3. Mutations in nsP3 disrupting the amphiphysin SH3 binding motif as well as RNAi-mediated silencing of amphiphysin-2 expression resulted in impaired viral RNA replication in HeLa cells infected with SINV or SFV. Infection of Balb/c mice with SFV carrying an SH3 binding-defective nsP3 was associated with significantly decreased mortality. These data establish SH3 domain-mediated binding of nsP3 with amphiphysin as an important host cell interaction promoting alphavirus replication.
The genus Alphavirus contains 29 known species that are transmitted by arthropods and include many important pathogens, such as Chikungunya virus (CHKV), which during the past decade has re-emerged to cause massive epidemics of febrile arthralgia around the Indian Ocean. The role of the alphaviral non-structural protein 3 (nsP3) has been linked to RNA replication and disease pathogenesis, but its molecular functions have remained elusive. Here we show that the nsP3s of CHKV as well as Sindbis and Semliki Forest viruses use a conserved proline-rich motif to interact with the Src-homology-3 (SH3) domain of host cell amphiphysins Amph1 and BIN1/Amph2, two adaptor proteins prominently involved in cellular membrane dynamics. We observed a striking re-localization of amphiphysin to alphaviral replication complexes in infected cells, and found that disruption of the amphiphysin SH3 binding motif in nsP3 strongly suppressed virus replication in vitro and attenuated Semliki Forest virus in infected mice. Thus, we conclude that amphiphysins are novel and important host cell factors involved in supporting alphavirus replication.
The C-terminal domain (CTD) of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) core protein is involved in regulating multiple stages of the HBV lifecycle. CTD phosphorylation correlates with pregenomic-RNA encapsidation during capsid assembly, reverse transcription, and viral transport, although the mechanisms remain unknown. In vitro, purified HBV core protein (Cp183) binds any RNA and assembles aggressively, independent of phosphorylation, to form empty and RNA-filled capsids. We hypothesize that there must be a chaperone that binds the CTD to prevent self-assembly and nonspecific RNA packaging. Here, we show that HBV capsid assembly is stalled by the Serine Arginine protein kinase (SRPK) binding to the CTD, and reactivated by subsequent phosphorylation. Using the SRPK to probe capsids, solution and structural studies showed that SRPK bound to capsid, though the CTD is sequestered on the capsid interior. This result indicates transient CTD externalization and suggests that capsid dynamics could be crucial for directing HBV intracellular trafficking. Our studies illustrate the stochastic nature of virus capsids and demonstrate the appropriation of a host protein by a virus for a non-canonical function.
A virus particle is a molecular machine that has evolved to self-assemble within the confines of a living cell. For hepatitis B virus (HBV), outside of a cell, the self-assembly process is very aggressive and consequently not specific for viral RNA. Here we show that HBV takes advantage of a host protein, SRPK, which acts like a molecular chaperone, to prevent the HBV core protein from binding RNA and to prevent the core protein from assembling at the wrong time and place. At the right time, SRPK can be removed in a regulated reaction to allow assembly. Once a virus is assembled, it must traffic to the right intracellular locale. Using SRPK, we show that HBV cores can transiently expose a segment of protein, normally inside the virus, that carries a signal for transport to the host nucleus. This is the first example we know of where a virus repurposes an enzyme for an alternative function. This sort of interplay between virus and host, where the virus hijacks and repurposes host proteins, is likely to be a common feature of viral infection.