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Jean-Yves Sgro
Inst. for Mol.Virology
731B Bock Labs
1525 Linden Drive Madison, WI 53706

Current Papers in Structure and Assembly (Journal of Virology)

Journal of Virology Structure and Assembly

  • Contribution of Glutamine Residues in the Helix 4-5 Loop to Capsid-Capsid Interactions in Simian Immunodeficiency Virus of Macaques [Structure and Assembly]

  • Following retrovirus entry, the viral capsid (CA) disassembles into its component capsid proteins. The rate of this uncoating process, which is regulated by CA-CA interactions and by the association of the capsid with host cell factors like cyclophilin A (CypA), can influence the efficiency of reverse transcription. Inspection of the CA sequences of lentiviruses reveals that several species of simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) have lost the glycine-proline motif in the helix 4-5 loop important for CypA binding; instead, the helix 4-5 loop in these SIVs exhibits an increase in the number of glutamine residues. In this study, we investigated the role of these glutamine residues in SIVmac239 replication. Changes in these residues, particularly glutamine 89 and glutamine 92, resulted in a decreased efficiency of core condensation, decreased stability of the capsids in infected cells, and blocks to reverse transcription. In some cases, coexpression of two different CA mutants produced chimeric virions that exhibited higher infectivity than either parental mutant virus. For this complementation of infectivity, glutamine 89 was apparently required on one of the complementing pair of mutants and glutamine 92 on the other. Modeling suggests that glutamines 89 and 92 are located on the distal face of hexameric capsid spokes and thus are well positioned to contribute to interhexamer interactions. Requirements to evade host restriction factors like TRIMCyp may drive some SIV lineages to evolve means other than CypA binding to stabilize the capsid. One solution used by several SIV strains consists of glutamine-based bonding.

    IMPORTANCE The retroviral capsid is an assembly of individual capsid proteins that surrounds the viral RNA. After a retrovirus enters a cell, the capsid must disassemble, or uncoat, at a proper rate. The interactions among capsid proteins contribute to this rate of uncoating. We found that some simian immunodeficiency viruses use arrays of glutamine residues, which can form hydrogen bonds efficiently, to keep their capsids stable. This strategy may allow these viruses to forego the use of capsid-stabilizing factors from the host cell, some of which have antiviral activity.

  • Role of Electrostatics in the Assembly Pathway of a Single-Stranded RNA Virus [Structure and Assembly]

  • We have recently discovered (R. D. Cadena-Nava et al., J. Virol. 86:3318nndash;3326, 2012, doi:10.1128/JVI.06566-11) that the in vitro packaging of RNA by the capsid protein (CP) of cowpea chlorotic mottle virus is optimal when there is a significant excess of CP, specifically that complete packaging of all of the RNA in solution requires sufficient CP to provide charge matching of the N-terminal positively charged arginine-rich motifs (ARMS) of the CPs with the negatively charged phosphate backbone of the RNA. We show here that packaging results from the initial formation of a charge-matched protocapsid consisting of RNA decorated by a disordered arrangement of CPs. This protocapsid reorganizes into the final, icosahedrally symmetric nucleocapsid by displacing the excess CPs from the RNA to the exterior surface of the emerging capsid through electrostatic attraction between the ARMs of the excess CP and the negative charge density of the capsid exterior. As a test of this scenario, we prepare CP mutants with extra and missing (relative to the wild type) cationic residues and show that a correspondingly smaller and larger excess, respectively, of CP is needed for complete packaging of RNA.

    IMPORTANCE Cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) has long been studied as a model system for the assembly of single-stranded RNA viruses. While much is known about the electrostatic interactions within the CCMV virion, relatively little is known about these interactions during assembly, i.e., within intermediate states preceding the final nucleocapsid structure. Theoretical models and coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations suggest that viruses like CCMV assemble by the bulk adsorption of CPs onto the RNA driven by electrostatic attraction, followed by structural reorganization into the final capsid. Such a mechanism facilitates assembly by condensing the RNA for packaging while simultaneously concentrating the local density of CP for capsid nucleation. We provide experimental evidence of such a mechanism by demonstrating that efficient assembly is initiated by the formation of a disordered protocapsid complex whose stoichiometry is governed by electrostatics (charge matching of the anionic RNA and the cationic N termini of the CP).

  • A Novel Life Cycle Modeling System for Ebola Virus Shows a Genome Length-Dependent Role of VP24 in Virus Infectivity [Structure and Assembly]

  • Work with infectious Ebola viruses is restricted to biosafety level 4 (BSL4) laboratories, presenting a significant barrier for studying these viruses. Life cycle modeling systems, including minigenome systems and transcription- and replication-competent virus-like particle (trVLP) systems, allow modeling of the virus life cycle under BSL2 conditions; however, all current systems model only certain aspects of the virus life cycle, rely on plasmid-based viral protein expression, and have been used to model only single infectious cycles. We have developed a novel life cycle modeling system allowing continuous passaging of infectious trVLPs containing a tetracistronic minigenome that encodes a reporter and the viral proteins VP40, VP24, and GP1,2. This system is ideally suited for studying morphogenesis, budding, and entry, in addition to genome replication and transcription. Importantly, the specific infectivity of trVLPs in this system was ~500-fold higher than that in previous systems. Using this system for functional studies of VP24, we showed that, contrary to previous reports, VP24 only very modestly inhibits genome replication and transcription when expressed in a regulated fashion, which we confirmed using infectious Ebola viruses. Interestingly, we also discovered a genome length-dependent effect of VP24 on particle infectivity, which was previously undetected due to the short length of monocistronic minigenomes and which is due at least partially to a previously unknown function of VP24 in RNA packaging. Based on our findings, we propose a model for the function of VP24 that reconciles all currently available data regarding the role of VP24 in nucleocapsid assembly as well as genome replication and transcription.

    IMPORTANCE Ebola viruses cause severe hemorrhagic fevers in humans, with no countermeasures currently being available, and must be studied in maximum-containment laboratories. Only a few of these laboratories exist worldwide, limiting our ability to study Ebola viruses and develop countermeasures. Here we report the development of a novel reverse genetics-based system that allows the study of Ebola viruses without maximum-containment laboratories. We used this system to investigate the Ebola virus protein VP24, showing that, contrary to previous reports, it only modestly inhibits virus genome replication and transcription but is important for packaging of genomes into virus particles, which constitutes a previously unknown function of VP24 and a potential antiviral target. We further propose a comprehensive model for the function of VP24 in nucleocapsid assembly. Importantly, on the basis of this approach, it should easily be possible to develop similar experimental systems for other viruses that are currently restricted to maximum-containment laboratories.

  • Snow Goose Hepatitis B Virus (SGHBV) Envelope and Capsid Proteins Independently Contribute to the Ability of SGHBV To Package Capsids Containing Single-Stranded DNA in Virions [Structure and Assembly]

  • Hepadnaviruses selectively package capsids containing mature double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) genomes in virions. Snow goose hepatitis B virus (SGHBV) is the only known hepadnavirus that packages capsids containing single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) in virions. We found that cells replicating SGHBV produce virions containing ssDNA as efficiently as virions containing mature dsDNA. We determined that SGHBV capsid and envelope proteins independently contribute to the production of virions containing ssDNA, with the capsid protein (Cp) making a larger contribution. We identified that amino acid residues 74 and 107 of SGHBV Cp contribute to this feature of SGHBV. When we changed these residues in duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) Cp, capsids containing immature ssDNA were packaged in virions. This result suggests that residues 74 and 107 contribute to the appearance of the "capsid packaging signal" on the surface of capsids and interact with the envelope proteins during virion formation. We also found that cells replicating SGHBV package a larger fraction of the total dsDNA they synthesize into virions than do those replicating DHBV. We determined that the SGHBV envelope proteins are responsible for this property of SGHBV. Determining if the ability of SGHBV envelope proteins to cause the formation of virions containing ssDNA is related to its ability to support high levels of virion production or if these two properties are mechanistically distinct will provide insights into virion morphogenesis.

    IMPORTANCE Cells replicating hepadnaviruses contain cytoplasmic capsids that contain mature and immature genomes. However, only capsids containing mature dsDNA genomes are packaged in virions. A mechanistic understanding of this phenomenon, which is currently lacking, is critical to understanding the process of hepadnaviral virion morphogenesis. In this study, we determined that the envelope proteins contribute to the ability of hepadnaviruses to selectively produce virions containing mature dsDNA genomes. Our finding sheds new light on the mechanisms underlying virion morphogenesis and challenges the dogma that "capsid maturation," and therefore the capsid protein (Cp), is solely responsible for the selective production of virions containing mature dsDNA genomes. Further, we identified amino acid residues of Cp that contribute to its ability to cause the selective production of virions containing mature dsDNA genomes. Future studies on the role of these residues in selective secretion will broaden our understanding of this poorly understood aspect of virus replication.

  • Influenza A and B Virus Intertypic Reassortment through Compatible Viral Packaging Signals [Structure and Assembly]

  • Influenza A and B viruses cocirculate in humans and together cause disease and seasonal epidemics. These two types of influenza viruses are evolutionarily divergent, and exchange of genetic segments inside coinfected cells occurs frequently within types but never between influenza A and B viruses. Possible mechanisms inhibiting the intertypic reassortment of genetic segments could be due to incompatible protein functions of segment homologs, a lack of processing of heterotypic segments by influenza virus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, an inhibitory effect of viral proteins on heterotypic virus function, or an inability to specifically incorporate heterotypic segments into budding virions. Here, we demonstrate that the full-length hemagglutinin (HA) of prototype influenza B viruses can complement the function of multiple influenza A viruses. We show that viral noncoding regions were sufficient to drive gene expression for either type A or B influenza virus with its cognate or heterotypic polymerase. The native influenza B virus HA segment could not be incorporated into influenza A virus virions. However, by adding the influenza A virus packaging signals to full-length influenza B virus glycoproteins, we rescued influenza A viruses that possessed HA, NA, or both HA and NA of influenza B virus. Furthermore, we show that, similar to single-cycle infectious influenza A virus, influenza B virus cannot incorporate heterotypic transgenes due to packaging signal incompatibilities. Altogether, these results demonstrate that the lack of influenza A and B virus reassortants can be attributed at least in part to incompatibilities in the virus-specific packaging signals required for effective segment incorporation into nascent virions.

    IMPORTANCE Reassortment of influenza A or B viruses provides an evolutionary strategy leading to unique genotypes, which can spawn influenza A viruses with pandemic potential. However, the mechanism preventing intertypic reassortment or gene exchange between influenza A and B viruses is not well understood. Nucleotides comprising the coding termini of each influenza A virus gene segment are required for specific segment incorporation during budding. Whether influenza B virus shares a similar selective packaging strategy or if packaging signals prevent intertypic reassortment remains unknown. Here, we provide evidence suggesting a similar mechanism of influenza B virus genome packaging. Furthermore, by appending influenza A virus packaging signals onto influenza B virus segments, we rescued recombinant influenza A/B viruses that could reassort in vitro with another influenza A virus. These findings suggest that the divergent evolution of packaging signals aids with the speciation of influenza A and B viruses and is in part responsible for the lack of intertypic viral reassortment.

  • Structure Analysis of the Major Capsid Proteins of Human Polyomaviruses 6 and 7 Reveals an Obstructed Sialic Acid Binding Site [Structure and Assembly]

  • Human polyomavirus 6 (HPyV6) and HPyV7 are commonly found on human skin. We have determined the X-ray structures of their major capsid protein, VP1, at resolutions of 1.8 and 1.7 AAring;, respectively. In polyomaviruses, VP1 commonly determines antigenicity as well as cell-surface receptor specificity, and the protein is therefore linked to attachment, tropism, and ultimately, viral pathogenicity. The structures of HPyV6 and HPyV7 VP1 reveal uniquely elongated loops that cover the bulk of the outer virion surfaces, obstructing a groove that binds sialylated glycan receptors in many other polyomaviruses. In support of this structural observation, interactions of VP1 with aalpha;2,3- and aalpha;2,6-linked sialic acids could not be detected in solution by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Single-cell binding studies indicate that sialylated glycans are likely not required for initial attachment to cultured human cells. Our findings establish distinct antigenic properties of HPyV6 and HPyV7 capsids and indicate that these two viruses engage nonsialylated receptors.

    IMPORTANCE Eleven new human polyomaviruses, including the skin viruses HPyV6 and HPyV7, have been identified during the last decade. In contrast to better-studied polyomaviruses, the routes of infection, cell tropism, and entry pathways of many of these new viruses remain largely mysterious. Our high-resolution X-ray structures of major capsid proteins VP1 from HPyV6 and from HPyV7 reveal critical differences in surface morphology from those of all other known polyomavirus structures. A groove that engages specific sialic acid-containing glycan receptors in related polyomaviruses is obstructed, and VP1 of HPyV6 and HPyV7 does not interact with sialylated compounds in solution or on cultured human cells. A comprehensive comparison with other structurally characterized polyomavirus VP1 proteins enhances our understanding of molecular determinants that underlie receptor specificity, antigenicity, and, ultimately, pathogenicity within the polyomavirus family and highlight the need for structure-based analysis to better define phylogenetic relationships within the growing polyomavirus family and perhaps also for other viruses.

  • Spatial Localization of the Ebola Virus Glycoprotein Mucin-Like Domain Determined by Cryo-Electron Tomography [Structure and Assembly]

  • The Ebola virus glycoprotein mucin-like domain (MLD) is implicated in Ebola virus cell entry and immune evasion. Using cryo-electron tomography of Ebola virus-like particles, we determined a three-dimensional structure for the full-length glycoprotein in a near-native state and compared it to that of a glycoprotein lacking the MLD. Our results, which show that the MLD is located at the apex and the sides of each glycoprotein monomer, provide a structural template for analysis of MLD function.