Infectious pancreatic necrosis virus (IPNV), a member of the family Birnaviridae, infects young salmon, with a severe impact on the commercial sea farming industry. Of the five mature proteins encoded by the IPNV genome, the multifunctional VP3 has an essential role in morphogenesis; interacting with the capsid protein VP2, the viral double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) genome and the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase VP1. Here we investigate one of these VP3 functions and present the crystal structure of the C-terminal 12 residues of VP3 bound to the VP1 polymerase. This interaction, visualized for the first time, reveals the precise molecular determinants used by VP3 to bind the polymerase. Competition binding studies confirm that this region of VP3 is necessary and sufficient for VP1 binding, while biochemical experiments show that VP3 attachment has no effect on polymerase activity. These results indicate how VP3 recruits the polymerase into birnavirus capsids during morphogenesis.
The hallmark of a virus is its capsid, which harbors the viral genome and is formed from protein subunits, which assemble following precise geometric rules. dsRNA viruses use an unusual protein multiplicity (120 copies) to form their closed capsids. We have determined the atomic structure of the capsid protein (P1) from the dsRNA cystovirus Φ8. In the crystal P1 forms pentamers, very similar in shape to facets of empty procapsids, suggesting an unexpected assembly pathway that proceeds via a pentameric intermediate. Unlike the elongated proteins used by dsRNA mammalian reoviruses, P1 has a compact trapezoid-like shape and a distinct arrangement in the shell, with two near-identical conformers in nonequivalent structural environments. Nevertheless, structural similarity with the analogous protein from the mammalian viruses suggests a common ancestor. The unusual shape of the molecule may facilitate dramatic capsid expansion during phage maturation, allowing P1 to switch interaction interfaces to provide capsid plasticity.
•Crystal structure of the major capsid protein P1 of the Pseudomonas phage Φ8•Φ8 P1 shares a common ancestor with mammalian reoviruses•Φ8 P1’s trapezoidal shape may facilitate capsid expansion during maturation•The pentameric organization of Φ8 P1 suggests a revised assembly pathway
El Omari et al. report a structure of the dsRNA bacteriophage ϕ8 capsid protein P1. P1 crystallizes as a pentamer, suggesting a new pathway for procapsid assembly. P1 displays a novel fold and a trapezoidal shape, distinct from that of other dsRNA virus, which may facilitate capsid expansion during maturation.
Enveloped viruses have developed various adroit mechanisms to invade their host cells. This process requires one or more viral envelope glycoprotein to achieve cell attachment and membrane fusion. Members of the Flaviviridae such as flaviviruses possess only one envelope glycoprotein, E, whereas pestiviruses and hepacivirus encode two glycoproteins, E1 and E2. Although E2 is involved in cell attachment, it has been unclear which protein is responsible for membrane fusion. We report the crystal structures of the homodimeric glycoprotein E2 from the pestivirus bovine viral diarrhea virus 1 (BVDV1) at both neutral and low pH. Unexpectedly, BVDV1 E2 does not have a class II fusion protein fold, and at low pH the N-terminal domain is disordered, similarly to the intermediate postfusion state of E2 from sindbis virus, an alphavirus. Our results suggest that the pestivirus and possibly the hepacivirus fusion machinery are unlike any previously observed.
► Structure of the major antigenically dominant protein of BVDV ► The overall fold of BVDV E2 shows no similarity to the class II fusion proteins ► At low pH, BVDV E2 N-terminal domain is disordered ► Entry mechanism of BVDV is probably applicable to hepatitis C virus
Stuart and colleagues have determined the atomic structure of the ectodomain of bovine viral diarrhea virus E2 glycoprotein, the major, antigenically dominant protein on the virus surface. The structure was expected to resemble the fusion molecules found on the surface of viruses such as dengue virus, but it is unlike anything previously seen. E2 itself is not, in fact, the fusion protein but binds the cell receptor and directs fusion via a pH-dependent conformational switch.
Dengue virus infections are still increasing at an alarming rate in tropical and subtropical countries underlying the need for a dengue vaccine. Although it is relatively easy to generate antibody responses to dengue virus, low avidity or low concentrations of antibody may enhance infection of Fc receptor-bearing cells with clinical impact, posing a challenge to vaccine production. In this paper we report the characterization of a monoclonal antibody, 2H12, which is cross-reactive to all four serotypes in the dengue virus group. Crystal structures of 2H12-Fab in complex with domain III of the envelope protein from three dengue serotypes have been determined. 2H12 binds to the highly conserved AB loop of domain III of the envelope protein that is poorly accessible in the mature virion. 2H12 neutralization varied between dengue serotypes and strains; in particular, dengue serotype 2 was not neutralized. As the 2H12 binding epitope was conserved, this variation in neutralization highlights differences between dengue serotypes and suggests that significant conformational changes in the virus must take place for antibody binding. Surprisingly, 2H12 facilitated little or no enhancement of infection. These data provide a structural basis for understanding antibody neutralization and enhancement of infection, which is crucial for the development of future dengue vaccines.
RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRps) are key to the replication of RNA viruses. A common divalent cation binding site, distinct from the positions of catalytic ions, has been identified in many viral RdRps. We have applied biochemical, biophysical, and structural approaches to show how the RdRp from bacteriophage ϕ6 uses the bound noncatalytic Mn2+ to facilitate the displacement of the C-terminal domain during the transition from initiation to elongation. We find that this displacement releases the noncatalytic Mn2+, which must be replaced for elongation to occur. By inserting a dysfunctional Mg2+ at this site, we captured two nucleoside triphosphates within the active site in the absence of Watson-Crick base pairing with template and mapped movements of divalent cations during preinitiation. These structures refine the pathway from preinitiation through initiation to elongation for the RNA-dependent RNA polymerization reaction, explain the role of the noncatalytic divalent cation in ϕ6 RdRp, and pinpoint the previously unresolved Mn2+-dependent step in replication.
The major capsid proteins VP16 and VP17 of bacteriophage P23-77 have been crystallized using both recombinant and purified virus and preliminary diffraction analyses have been performed.
Members of the diverse double-β-barrel lineage of viruses are identified by the conserved structure of their major coat protein. New members of this lineage have been discovered based on structural analysis and we are interested in identifying relatives that utilize unusual versions of the double-β-barrel fold. One candidate for such studies is P23-77, an icosahedral dsDNA bacteriophage that infects the extremophile Thermus thermophilus. P23-77 has two major coat proteins, namely VP16 and VP17, of a size consistent with a single-β-barrel core fold. These previously unstudied proteins have now been successfully expressed as recombinant proteins, purified and crystallized using hanging-drop and sitting-drop vapour-diffusion methods. Crystals of coat proteins VP16 and VP17 have been obtained as well as of a putative complex. In addition, virus-derived material has been crystallized. Diffraction data have been collected to beyond 3 Å resolution for five crystal types and structure determinations are in progress.
bacteriophages; capsid proteins
Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites and are some of the most rapidly evolving and diverse pathogens encountered by the host immune system. Large complicated viruses, such as poxviruses, have evolved a plethora of proteins to disrupt host immune signalling in their battle against immune surveillance. Recent X-ray crystallographic analysis of these viral immunomodulators has helped form an emerging picture of the molecular details of virus-host interactions. In this review we consider some of these immune evasion strategies as they apply to poxviruses, from a structural perspective, with specific examples from the European SPINE2-Complexes initiative. Structures of poxvirus immunomodulators reveal the capacity of viruses to mimic and compete against the host immune system, using a diverse range of structural folds that are unique or acquired from their hosts with both enhanced and unexpectedly divergent functions.
Bcl-2, B-cell lymphoma-2; CPXV, Cowpox virus; dsDNA, double-stranded DNA; ECTV, ectromelia virus; GAGs, glycosaminoglycans; GPCRs, G-protein coupled receptors; IFN, interferon; IG, immunoglobulin; PDB, protein data bank; RPXV, rabbitpox virus; r.m.s.d., root mean square deviation; SPINE, Structural Proteomics In Europe; TLR, Toll-like receptors; TNF, tumour necrosis factor; TNFR, tumour necrosis factor receptor; VACV, vaccinia virus; vCCI, viral CC-chemokine inhibitor; eIF2α, eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 alpha; TRAF6, TNF-receptor-associated factor 6; IRAKs, IL-1 receptor associated kinases; IKK, IκB kinase; Structural virology; Innate immunity; Cell signalling; X-ray crystallography; Surface receptors
The morphogenesis of poxviruses such as vaccinia virus (VACV) sees the virion shape mature from spherical to brick-shaped. Trimeric capsomers of the VACV D13 protein form a transitory, stabilizing lattice on the surface of the initial spherical immature virus particle. The crystal structure of D13 reveals that this major scaffolding protein comprises a double β barrel “jelly-roll” subunit arranged as pseudo-hexagonal trimers. These structural features are characteristic of the major capsid proteins of a lineage of large icosahedral double-stranded DNA viruses including human adenovirus and the bacteriophages PRD1 and PM2. Structure-based phylogenetic analysis confirms that VACV belongs to this lineage, suggesting that (analogously to higher organism embryogenesis) early poxvirus morphogenesis reflects their evolution from a lineage of viruses sharing a common icosahedral ancestor.
► Poxvirus D13 acts as a scaffold for the morphogenesis of spherical immature virions ► D13 has a double “jelly-roll” structure, like other large DNA virus capsid proteins ► Structure-based phylogenetics places D13 into an icosahedral viral lineage ► Poxvirus morphogenesis reflects Vaccinia virus evolution from an icosahedral ancestor
The evolution of dengue viruses has resulted in four antigenically similar yet distinct serotypes. Infection with one serotype likely elicits lifelong immunity to that serotype, but generally not against the other three. Secondary or sequential infections are common, as multiple viral serotypes frequently cocirculate. Dengue infection, although frequently mild, can lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) which can be life threatening. DHF is more common in secondary dengue infections, implying a role for the adaptive immune response in the disease. There is currently much effort toward the design and implementation of a dengue vaccine but these efforts are made more difficult by the challenge of inducing durable neutralizing immunity to all four viruses. Domain 3 of the dengue virus envelope protein (ED3) has been suggested as one such candidate because it contains neutralizing epitopes and it was originally thought that relatively few cross-reactive antibodies are directed to this domain. In this study, we performed a detailed analysis of the anti-ED3 response in a cohort of patients suffering either primary or secondary dengue infections. The results show dramatic evidence of original antigenic sin in secondary infections both in terms of binding and enhancement activity. This has important implications for dengue vaccine design because heterologous boosting is likely to maintain the immunological footprint of the first vaccination. On the basis of these findings, we propose a simple in vitro enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to diagnose the original dengue infection in secondary dengue cases.
Rev is a key regulatory protein of HIV-1. Its function is to bind to viral transcripts and effect export from the nucleus of unspliced mRNA thereby allowing the synthesis of structural proteins. Despite its evident importance, the structure of Rev has remained unknown, primarily because Rev’s proclivity for polymerization and aggregation is an impediment to crystallization. Monoclonal antibody antigen-binding domains (Fabs) have proven useful for the co-crystallization of other refractory proteins. In the present study, a chimeric rabbit/human anti-Rev Fab was selected by phage display, expressed in a bacterial secretion system, and purified from the media. The Fab readily solubilized polymeric Rev. The resulting Fab/Rev complex was purified by metal ion affinity chromatography and characterized by analytical ultracentrifugation which demonstrated monodispersity and indicated a 1:1 molar stoichiometry. The Fab binds with very high affinity, as determined by surface plasmon resonance, to a conformational epitope in the N-terminal half of Rev. The complex forms crystals suitable for structure determination. The ability to serve as a crystallization aid is a new application of broad utility for chimeric rabbit/human Fab. The corresponding single chain antibody (scFv) was also prepared, offering the potential of intracellular antibody therapeutics against HIV-1.
rabbit antibody; phage display; humanized Fab; scFv; crystallization chaperone
Mokola virus (MOKV) is a nonsegmented, negative-sense RNA virus that belongs to the Lyssavirus genus and Rhabdoviridae family. MOKV phosphoprotein P is an essential component of the replication and transcription complex and acts as a cofactor for the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. P recruits the viral polymerase to the nucleoprotein-bound viral RNA (N-RNA) via an interaction between its C-terminal domain and the N-RNA complex. Here we present a structure for this domain of MOKV P, obtained by expression of full-length P in Escherichia coli, which was subsequently truncated during crystallization. The structure has a high degree of homology with P of rabies virus, another member of Lyssavirus genus, and to a lesser degree with P of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a member of the related Vesiculovirus genus. In addition, analysis of the crystal packing of this domain reveals a potential binding site for the nucleoprotein N. Using both site-directed mutagenesis and yeast two-hybrid experiments to measure P-N interaction, we have determined the relative roles of key amino acids involved in this interaction to map the region of P that binds N. This analysis also reveals a structural relationship between the N-RNA binding domain of the P proteins of the Rhabdoviridae and the Paramyxoviridae.
The flavivirus genome comprises a single strand of positive-sense RNA, which is translated into a polyprotein and cleaved by a combination of viral and host proteases to yield functional proteins. One of these, nonstructural protein 3 (NS3), is an enzyme with both serine protease and NTPase/helicase activities. NS3 plays a central role in the flavivirus life cycle: the NS3 N-terminal serine protease together with its essential cofactor NS2B is involved in the processing of the polyprotein, whereas the NS3 C-terminal NTPase/helicase is responsible for ATP-dependent RNA strand separation during replication. An unresolved question remains regarding why NS3 appears to encode two apparently disconnected functionalities within one protein. Here we report the 2.75-Å-resolution crystal structure of full-length Murray Valley encephalitis virus NS3 fused with the protease activation peptide of NS2B. The biochemical characterization of this construct suggests that the protease has little influence on the helicase activity and vice versa. This finding is in agreement with the structural data, revealing a single protein with two essentially segregated globular domains. Comparison of the structure with that of dengue virus type 4 NS2B-NS3 reveals a relative orientation of the two domains that is radically different between the two structures. Our analysis suggests that the relative domain-domain orientation in NS3 is highly variable and dictated by a flexible interdomain linker. The possible implications of this conformational flexibility for the function of NS3 are discussed.
The expression, purification and crystallization of the full-length matrix protein from three lyssaviruses is described.
The matrix (M) proteins of lyssaviruses (family Rhabdoviridae) are crucial to viral morphogenesis as well as in modulating replication and transcription of the viral genome. To date, no high-resolution structural information has been obtained for full-length rhabdovirus M. Here, the cloning, expression and purification of the matrix proteins from three lyssaviruses, Lagos bat virus (LAG), Mokola virus and Thailand dog virus, are described. Crystals have been obtained for the full-length M protein from Lagos bat virus (LAG M). Successful crystallization depended on a number of factors, in particular the addition of an N-terminal SUMO fusion tag to increase protein solubility. Diffraction data have been recorded from crystals of native and selenomethionine-labelled LAG M to 2.75 and 3.0 Å resolution, respectively. Preliminary analysis indicates that these crystals belong to space group P6122 or P6522, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 56.9–57.2, c = 187.9–188.6 Å, consistent with the presence of one molecule per asymmetric unit, and structure determination is currently in progress.
matrix proteins; Rhabdoviridae; lyssaviruses; Lagos bat virus; SUMO tag
New World arenaviruses, which cause severe hemorrhagic fever, rely upon their envelope glycoproteins for attachment and fusion into their host cell. Here we present the crystal structure of the Machupo virus GP1 attachment glycoprotein, which is responsible for high-affinity binding at the cell surface to the transferrin receptor. This first structure of an arenavirus glycoprotein shows that GP1 consists of a novel α/β fold. This provides a blueprint of the New World arenavirus attachment glycoproteins and reveals a new architecture of viral attachment, using a protein fold of unknown origins.
A procedure for microseeding into nanolitre crystallization drops is described with selected successful examples.
A simple semi-automated microseeding procedure for nanolitre crystallization experiments is described. Firstly, a microseed stock solution is made from microcrystals using a Teflon bead. A dilution series of this microseed stock is then prepared and dispensed as 100 nl droplets into 96-well crystallization plates, facilitating the incorporation of seeding into high-throughput crystallization pipelines. This basic microseeding procedure has been modified to include additive-screening and cross-seeding methods. Five examples in which these techniques have been used successfully are described.
crystallization; crystal optimization; microseeding; additives
Two members of the paramyxovirus family, Nipah virus (NiV) and Hendra virus (HeV), are recent additions to a growing number of agents of emergent diseases which use bats as a natural host. Identification of ephrin-B2 and ephrin-B3 as cellular receptors for these viruses has enabled the development of immunotherapeutic reagents which prevent virus attachment and subsequent fusion. Here we present the structural analysis of the protein and carbohydrate components of the unbound viral attachment glycoprotein of NiV glycoprotein (NiV-G) at a 2.2-Å resolution. Comparison with its ephrin-B2-bound form reveals that conformational changes within the envelope glycoprotein are required to achieve viral attachment. Structural differences are particularly pronounced in the 579-590 loop, a major component of the ephrin binding surface. In addition, the 236-245 loop is rather disordered in the unbound structure. We extend our structural characterization of NiV-G with mass spectrometric analysis of the carbohydrate moieties. We demonstrate that NiV-G is largely devoid of the oligomannose-type glycans that in viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus type 1 and Ebola virus influence viral tropism and the host immune response. Nevertheless, we find putative ligands for the endothelial cell lectin, LSECtin. Finally, by mapping structural conservation and glycosylation site positions from other members of the paramyxovirus family, we suggest the molecular surface involved in oligomerization. These results suggest possible pathways of virus-host interaction and strategies for the optimization of recombinant vaccines.
The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses performs both RNA replication and transcription. In order to initiate RNA polymerization, viral RdRPs must be able to interact with the incoming 3′ terminus of the template and position it, so that a productive binary complex is formed. Structural studies have revealed that RdRPs of dsRNA viruses that lack helicases have electrostatically charged areas on the polymerase surface, which might facilitate such interactions. In this study, structure-based mutagenesis, enzymatic assays and molecular mapping of bacteriophage φ6 RdRP and its RNA were used to elucidate the roles of the negatively charged plough area on the polymerase surface, of the rim of the template tunnel and of the template specificity pocket that is key in the formation of the productive RNA-polymerase binary complex. The positively charged rim of the template tunnel has a significant role in the engagement of highly structured ssRNA molecules, whereas specific interactions further down in the template tunnel promote ssRNA entry to the catalytic site. Hence, we show that by aiding the formation of a stable binary complex with optimized RNA templates, the overall polymerization activity of the φ6 RdRP can be greatly enhanced.
The matrix (M) proteins of rhabdoviruses are multifunctional proteins essential for virus maturation and budding that also regulate the expression of viral and host proteins. We have solved the structures of M from the vesicular stomatitis virus serotype New Jersey (genus: Vesiculovirus) and from Lagos bat virus (genus: Lyssavirus), revealing that both share a common fold despite sharing no identifiable sequence homology. Strikingly, in both structures a stretch of residues from the otherwise-disordered N terminus of a crystallographically adjacent molecule is observed binding to a hydrophobic cavity on the surface of the protein, thereby forming non-covalent linear polymers of M in the crystals. While the overall topology of the interaction is conserved between the two structures, the molecular details of the interactions are completely different. The observed interactions provide a compelling model for the flexible self-assembly of the matrix protein during virion morphogenesis and may also modulate interactions with host proteins.
Rhabdoviruses are of considerable socioeconomic importance. For example, rabies virus causes lethal encephalitis resulting in approximately 50,000 human deaths per year. Rhabdoviruses infect cells and propagate despite having small genomes that encode only five multifunctional proteins. One of these, the matrix protein, plays a structural role in virus assembly in addition to modulating the production of host and virus proteins, promoting viral egress from the host cell and modulating cell death. We have solved the 3-dimensional crystal structures of matrix proteins from two distantly related rhabdoviruses: Lagos bat virus and vesicular stomatitis virus. The two proteins have very similar structures despite having dissimilar amino acid sequences. Surprisingly, for both we observe self-association between a pocket on the main globular domain and one extremity of an adjacent molecule in the crystal. Repetition of this interaction gives rise to non-covalent polymers of matrix proteins, adjacent proteins being tethered by a flexible linker. This provides a compelling molecular mechanism for the self-association of matrix molecules required for virus assembly. While the general mode of polymerization is conserved between the two structures, the precise molecular details of the interactions differ, consistent with these matrix proteins binding different cellular factors during infection.
The biological role of manganese (Mn2+) has been a long-standing puzzle, since at low concentrations it activates several polymerases whilst at higher concentrations it inhibits. Viral RNA polymerases possess a common architecture, reminiscent of a closed right hand. The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) of bacteriophage ϕ6 is one of the best understood examples of this important class of polymerases. We have probed the role of Mn2+ by biochemical, biophysical and structural analyses of the wild-type enzyme and of a mutant form with an altered Mn2+-binding site (E491 to Q). The E491Q mutant has much reduced affinity for Mn2+, reduced RNA binding and a compromised elongation rate. Loss of Mn2+ binding structurally stabilizes the enzyme. These data and a re-examination of the structures of other viral RNA polymerases clarify the role of manganese in the activation of polymerization: Mn2+ coordination of a catalytic aspartate is necessary to allow the active site to properly engage with the triphosphates of the incoming NTPs. The structural flexibility caused by Mn2+ is also important for the enzyme dynamics, explaining the requirement for manganese throughout RNA polymerization.
The vaccinia virus (VACV) A41L gene encodes a secreted 30 kDa glycoprotein that is nonessential for virus replication but affects the host response to infection. The A41 protein shares sequence similarity with another VACV protein that binds CC chemokines (called vCKBP, or viral CC chemokine inhibitor, vCCI), and strains of VACV lacking the A41L gene induced stronger CD8+ T-cell responses than control viruses expressing A41. Using surface plasmon resonance, we screened 39 human and murine chemokines and identified CCL21, CCL25, CCL26 and CCL28 as A41 ligands, with Kds of between 8 nM and 118 nM. Nonetheless, A41 was ineffective at inhibiting chemotaxis induced by these chemokines, indicating it did not block the interaction of these chemokines with their receptors. However the interaction of A41 and chemokines was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner by heparin, suggesting that A41 and heparin bind to overlapping sites on these chemokines. To better understand the mechanism of action of A41 its crystal structure was solved to 1.9 Å resolution. The protein has a globular β sandwich structure similar to that of the poxvirus vCCI family of proteins, but there are notable structural differences, particularly in surface loops and electrostatic charge distribution. Structural modelling suggests that the binding paradigm as defined for the vCCI–chemokine interaction is likely to be conserved between A41 and its chemokine partners. Additionally, sequence analysis of chemokines binding to A41 identified a signature for A41 binding. The biological and structural data suggest that A41 functions by forming moderately strong (nM) interactions with certain chemokines, sufficient to interfere with chemokine-glycosaminoglycan interactions at the cell surface (μM–nM) and thereby to destroy the chemokine concentration gradient, but not strong enough to disrupt the (pM) chemokine–chemokine receptor interactions.
As part of the innate immune response (for example to virus infection), the body produces proteins called chemokines, which act by directing white blood cells (leukocytes) to the areas of infection and inflammation. Viruses have evolved mechanisms to fight this immune response. Indeed, so important is this need to protect themselves from the immune system that some viruses, such as poxviruses, devote up to half their genetic information to this battle. We have studied a protein called A41, one component of the response of vaccinia virus (the vaccine used to eradicate smallpox) to the immune system and shown that it interferes with the function of a group of chemokines. These chemokines function by forming concentration gradients along which the white blood cells migrate, and A41 sequesters the chemokines, thereby preventing formation of the gradient. Interestingly, we show also that A41 is very similar in structure to another group of proteins, called vCCIs, that bind chemokines more tightly, blocking their attachment to white blood cells, suggesting that both mechanisms are important for virus virulence.
The viral capsid protein P2 of bacteriophage PM2 has been crystallized. Preliminary X-ray analysis demonstrates the position and orientation of the two trimers in the asymmetric unit.
PM2 (Corticoviridae) is a dsDNA bacteriophage which contains a lipid membrane beneath its icosahedral capsid. In this respect it resembles bacteriophage PRD1 (Tectiviridae), although it is not known whether the similarity extends to the detailed molecular architecture of the virus, for instance the fold of the major coat protein P2. Structural analysis of PM2 has been initiated and virus-derived P2 has been crystallized by sitting-nanodrop vapour diffusion. Crystals of P2 have been obtained in space group P21212, with two trimers in the asymmetric unit and unit-cell parameters a = 171.1, b = 78.7, c = 130.1 Å. The crystals diffract to 4 Å resolution at the ESRF BM14 beamline (Grenoble, France) and the orientation of the non-crystallographic threefold axes, the spatial relationship between the two trimers and the packing of the trimers within the unit cell have been determined. The trimers form tightly packed layers consistent with the crystal morphology, possibly recapitulating aspects of the arrangement of subunits in the virus.
virus crystallography; lipid-containing bacteriophages; PRD1-adenoviral lineage
Vaccinia virus (VACV) encodes many immunomodulatory proteins, including inhibitors of apoptosis and modulators of innate immune signalling. VACV protein N1 is an intracellular homodimer that contributes to virus virulence and was reported to inhibit nuclear factor (NF)-κB signalling. However, analysis of NF-κB signalling in cells infected with recombinant viruses with or without the N1L gene showed no difference in NF-κB-dependent gene expression. Given that N1 promotes virus virulence, other possible functions of N1 were investigated and this revealed that N1 is an inhibitor of apoptosis in cells transfected with the N1L gene and in the context of VACV infection. In support of this finding virally expressed N1 co-precipitated with endogenous pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins Bid, Bad and Bax as well as with Bad and Bax expressed by transfection. In addition, the crystal structure of N1 was solved to 2.9 Å resolution (0.29 nm). Remarkably, although N1 shows no sequence similarity to cellular proteins, its three-dimensional structure closely resembles Bcl-xL and other members of the Bcl-2 protein family. The structure also reveals that N1 has a constitutively open surface groove similar to the grooves of other anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins, which bind the BH3 motifs of pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members. Molecular modelling of BH3 peptides into the N1 surface groove, together with analysis of their physico-chemical properties, suggests a mechanism for the specificity of peptide recognition. This study illustrates the importance of the evolutionary conservation of structure, rather than sequence, in protein function and reveals a novel anti-apoptotic protein from orthopoxviruses.
The problems encountered during the phasing and structure determination of the packaging enzyme P4 from bacteriophage ϕ13 using the anomalous signal from selenium in a single-wavelength anomalous dispersion experiment (SAD) are described. The oligomeric state of P4 in the virus is a hexamer (with sixfold rotational symmetry) and it crystallizes in space group C2, with four hexamers in the crystallographic asymmetric unit. Current state-of-the-art ab initio phasing software yielded solutions consisting of 96 atoms arranged as sixfold symmetric clusters of Se atoms. However, although these solutions showed high correlation coefficients indicative that the substructure had been solved, the resulting phases produced uninterpretable electron-density maps. Only after further analysis were correct solutions found (also of 96 atoms), leading to the eventual identification of the positions of 120 Se atoms. Here, it is demonstrated how the difficulties in finding a correct phase solution arise from an intricate false-minima problem.
RNA silencing refers to a group of RNA-induced gene-silencing mechanisms that developed early in the eukaryotic lineage, probably for defence against pathogens and regulation of gene expression. In plants, protozoa, fungi, and nematodes, but apparently not insects and vertebrates, it involves a cell-encoded RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (cRdRP) that produces double-stranded RNA triggers from aberrant single-stranded RNA. We report the 2.3-Å resolution crystal structure of QDE-1, a cRdRP from Neurospora crassa, and find that it forms a relatively compact dimeric molecule, each subunit of which comprises several domains with, at its core, a catalytic apparatus and protein fold strikingly similar to the catalytic core of the DNA-dependent RNA polymerases responsible for transcription. This evolutionary link between the two enzyme types suggests that aspects of RNA silencing in some organisms may recapitulate transcription/replication pathways functioning in the ancient RNA-based world.
Insights into RNA-induced gene silencing are gained from the structure of an RNAi (RNA-dependent RNA) polymerase fromNeurospora crassa. A striking resemblance to eukaryote and bacterial DNA-dependent RNA polymerases was observed.