|Journal of Virology Structure and Assembly|
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) envelope glycoproteins E1 and E2 form a heterodimer and mediate receptor interactions and viral fusion. Both E1 and E2 are targets of the neutralizing antibody (NAb) response and are candidates for the production of vaccines that generate humoral immunity. Previous studies demonstrated that N-terminal hypervariable region 1 (HVR1) can modulate the neutralization potential of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), but no information is available on the influence of HVR2 or the intergenotypic variable region (igVR) on antigenicity. In this study, we examined how the variable regions influence the antigenicity of the receptor binding domain of E2 spanning HCV polyprotein residues 384 to 661 (E2661) using a panel of MAbs raised against E2661 and E2661 lacking HVR1, HVR2, and the igVR (123) and well-characterized MAbs isolated from infected humans. We show for a subset of both neutralizing and nonneutralizing MAbs that all three variable regions decrease the ability of MAbs to bind E2661 and reduce the ability of MAbs to inhibit E2-CD81 interactions. In addition, we describe a new MAb directed toward the region spanning residues 411 to 428 of E2 (MAb24) that demonstrates broad neutralization against all 7 genotypes of HCV. The ability of MAb24 to inhibit E2-CD81 interactions is strongly influenced by the three variable regions. Our data suggest that HVR1, HVR2, and the igVR modulate exposure of epitopes on the core domain of E2 and their ability to prevent E2-CD81 interactions. These studies suggest that the function of HVR2 and the igVR is to modulate antibody recognition of glycoprotein E2 and may contribute to immune evasion.
IMPORTANCE This study reveals conformational and antigenic differences between the 123 and intact E2661 glycoproteins and provides new structural and functional data about the three variable regions and their role in occluding neutralizing and nonneutralizing epitopes on the E2 core domain. The variable regions may therefore function to reduce the ability of HCV to elicit NAbs directed toward the conserved core domain. Future studies aimed at generating a three-dimensional structure for intact E2 containing HVR1, and the adjoining NAb epitope at residues 412 to 428, together with HVR2, will reveal how the variable regions modulate antigenic structure.
During assembly, double-stranded DNA viruses, including bacteriophages and herpesviruses, utilize a powerful molecular motor to package their genomic DNA into a preformed viral capsid. An integral component of the packaging motor in the Bacillus subtilis bacteriophage 29 is a viral genome-encoded pentameric ring of RNA (prohead RNA [pRNA]). pRNA is a 174-base transcript comprised of two domains, domains I and II. Early studies initially isolated a 120-base form (domain I only) that retains high biological activity in vitro; hence, no function could be assigned to domain II. Here we define a role for this domain in the packaging process. DNA packaging using restriction digests of 29 DNA showed that motors with the 174-base pRNA supported the correct polarity of DNA packaging, selectively packaging the DNA left end. In contrast, motors containing the 120-base pRNA had compromised specificity, packaging both left- and right-end fragments. The presence of domain II also provides selectivity in competition assays with genomes from related phages. Furthermore, motors with the 174-base pRNA were restrictive, in that they packaged only one DNA fragment into the head, whereas motors with the 120-base pRNA packaged several fragments into the head, indicating multiple initiation events. These results show that domain II imparts specificity and stringency to the motor during the packaging initiation events that precede DNA translocation. Heteromeric rings of pRNA demonstrated that one or two copies of domain II were sufficient to impart this selectivity/stringency. Although 29 differs from other double-stranded DNA phages in having an RNA motor component, the function provided by pRNA is carried on the motor protein components in other phages.
IMPORTANCE During virus assembly, genome packaging involves the delivery of newly synthesized viral nucleic acid into a protein shell. In the double-stranded DNA phages and herpesviruses, this is accomplished by a powerful molecular motor that translocates the viral DNA into a preformed viral shell. A key event in DNA packaging is recognition of the viral DNA among other nucleic acids in the host cell. Commonly, a DNA-binding protein mediates the interaction of viral DNA with the motor/head shell. Here we show that for the bacteriophage 29, this essential step of genome recognition is mediated by a viral genome-encoded RNA rather than a protein. A domain of the prohead RNA (pRNA) imparts specificity and stringency to the motor by ensuring the correct orientation of DNA packaging and restricting initiation to a single event. Since this assembly step is unique to the virus, DNA packaging is a novel target for the development of antiviral drugs.
The membrane-proximal region of murine leukemia virus envelope (Env) is a critical modulator of its functionality. We have previously shown that the insertion of one amino acid (+1 leucine) within the membrane-spanning domain (MSD) abolished protein functionality in infectivity assays. However, functionality could be restored to this +1 leucine mutant by either inserting two additional amino acids (+3 leucine) or by deleting the cytoplasmic tail domain (CTD) in the +1 leucine background. We inferred that the ectodomain and CTD have protein interfaces that have to be in alignment for Env to be functional. Here, we made single residue deletions to the Env mutant with the +1 leucine insertion to restore the interface alignment (gain of functionality) and therefore define the boundaries of the two interfaces. We identified the glycine-proline pairs near the N terminus (positions 147 and 148) and the C terminus (positions 159 and 160) of the MSD as being the boundaries of the two interfaces. Deletions between these pairs restored function, but deletions outside of them did not. In addition, the vast majority of the single residue deletions regained function if the CTD was deleted. The exceptions were four hydroxyl-containing amino acid residues (T139, T140, S143, and T144) that reside in the ectodomain interface and the proline at position 148, which were all indispensable for functionality. We hypothesize that the hydroxyl-containing residues at positions T139 and S143 could be a driving force for stabilizing the ectodomain interface through formation of a hydrogen-bonding network.
IMPORTANCE The membrane-proximal external region (MPER) and membrane-spanning domains (MSDs) of viral glycoproteins have been shown to be critical for regulating glycoprotein fusogenicity. However, the roles of these two domains are poorly understood. We report here that point deletions and insertions within the MPER or MSD result in functionally inactive proteins. However, when the C-terminal tail domain (CTD) is deleted, the majority of the proteins remain functional. The only residues that were found to be critical for function regardless of the CTD were four hydroxyl-containing amino acids located at the C terminus of the MPER (T139 and T140) and at the N terminus of the MSD (S143 and T144) and a proline near the beginning of the MSD (P148). We demonstrate that hydrogen-bonding at positions T139 and S143 is critical for protein function. Our findings provide novel insights into the role of the MPER in regulating fusogenic activity of viral glycoproteins.