|Journal of Virology Structure and Assembly|
Using atomic force microscopy imaging and nanoindentation measurements, we investigated the effect of the minor capsid proteins pUL17 and pUL25 on the structural stability of icosahedral herpes simplex virus capsids. pUL17 and pUL25, which form the capsid vertex-specific component (CVSC), particularly contributed to capsid resilience along the 5-fold and 2-fold but not along the 3-fold icosahedral axes. Our detailed analyses, including quantitative mass spectrometry of the protein composition of the capsids, revealed that both pUL17 and pUL25 are required to stabilize the capsid shells at the vertices. This indicates that herpesviruses withstand the internal pressure that is generated during DNA genome packaging by locally reinforcing the mechanical sturdiness of the vertices, the most stressed part of the capsids.
IMPORTANCE In this study, the structural, material properties of herpes simplex virus 1 were investigated. The capsid of herpes simplex virus is built up of a variety of proteins, and we scrutinized the influence of two of these proteins on the stability of the capsid. For this, we used a scanning force microscope that makes detailed, topographic images of the particles and that is able to perform mechanical deformation measurements. Using this approach, we revealed that both studied proteins play an essential role in viral stability. These new insights support us in forming a complete view on viral structure and furthermore could possibly help not only to develop specific antivirals but also to build protein shells with improved stability for drug delivery purposes.
Influenza A virus matrix protein 1 (M1) is an essential component involved in the structural stability of the virus and in the budding of new virions from infected cells. A deeper understanding of the molecular basis of virion formation and the budding process is required in order to devise new therapeutic approaches. We performed a detailed investigation of the interaction between M1 and phosphatidylserine (PS) (i.e., its main binding target at the plasma membrane [PM]), as well as the distribution of PS itself, both in model membranes and in living cells. To this end, we used a combination of techniques, including Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), confocal microscopy imaging, raster image correlation spectroscopy, and number and brightness (Naamp;B) analysis. Our results show that PS can cluster in segregated regions in the plane of the lipid bilayer, both in model bilayers constituted of PS and phosphatidylcholine and in living cells. The viral protein M1 interacts specifically with PS-enriched domains, and such interaction in turn affects its oligomerization process. Furthermore, M1 can stabilize PS domains, as observed in model membranes. For living cells, the presence of PS clusters is suggested by Naamp;B experiments monitoring the clustering of the PS sensor lactadherin. Also, colocalization between M1 and a fluorescent PS probe suggest that, in infected cells, the matrix protein can specifically bind to the regions of PM in which PS is clustered. Taken together, our observations provide novel evidence regarding the role of PS-rich domains in tuning M1-lipid and M1-M1 interactions at the PM of infected cells.
IMPORTANCE Influenza virus particles assemble at the plasma membranes (PM) of infected cells. This process is orchestrated by the matrix protein M1, which interacts with membrane lipids while binding to the other proteins and genetic material of the virus. Despite its importance, the initial step in virus assembly (i.e., M1-lipid interaction) is still not well understood. In this work, we show that phosphatidylserine can form lipid domains in physical models of the inner leaflet of the PM. Furthermore, the spatial organization of PS in the plane of the bilayer modulates M1-M1 interactions. Finally, we show that PS domains appear to be present in the PM of living cells and that M1 seems to display a high affinity for them.
The HIV-1 core consists of the viral genomic RNA and several viral proteins encased within a conical capsid. After cell entry, the core disassembles in a process termed uncoating. Although HIV-1 uncoating has been linked to reverse transcription of the viral genome in target cells, the mechanism by which uncoating is initiated is unknown. Using time-lapse atomic force microscopy, we analyzed the morphology and physical properties of isolated HIV-1 cores during the course of reverse transcription in vitro. We found that, during an early stage of reverse transcription the pressure inside the capsid increases, reaching a maximum after 7 h. High-resolution mechanical mapping reveals the formation of a stiff coiled filamentous structure underneath the capsid surface. Subsequently, this coiled structure disappears, the stiffness of the capsid drops precipitously to a value below that of a pre-reverse transcription core, and the capsid undergoes partial or complete rupture near the narrow end of the conical structure. We propose that the transcription of the relatively flexible single-stranded RNA into a more rigid filamentous structure elevates the pressure within the core, which triggers the initiation of capsid disassembly.
IMPORTANCE For successful infection, the HIV-1 genome, which is in the form of a single-stranded RNA enclosed inside a capsid shell, must be reverse transcribed into double-stranded DNA and released from the capsid (in a process known as uncoating) before it can be integrated into the target cell genome. The mechanism that triggers uncoating is a pivotal question of long standing. By using atomic force microscopy, we found that during reverse transcription the pressure inside the capsid increases until the internal stress exceeds the strength of the capsid structure and the capsid breaks open. The application of AFM technologies to study purified HIV-1 cores represents a new experimental platform for elucidating additional aspects of capsid disassembly and HIV-1 uncoating.
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) genome encapsidation requires several essential viral proteins, among them pUL56, pUL89, and the recently described pUL51, which constitute the viral terminase. To gain insight into terminase complex assembly, we investigated interactions between the individual subunits. For analysis in the viral context, HCMV bacterial artificial chromosomes carrying deletions in the open reading frames encoding the terminase proteins were used. These experiments were complemented by transient-transfection assays with plasmids expressing the terminase components. We found that if one terminase protein was missing, the levels of the other terminase proteins were markedly diminished, which could be overcome by proteasome inhibition or providing the missing subunit in trans. These data imply that sequestration of the individual subunits within the terminase complex protects them from proteasomal turnover. The finding that efficient interactions among the terminase proteins occurred only when all three were present together is reminiscent of a folding-upon-binding principle leading to cooperative stability. Furthermore, whereas pUL56 was translocated into the nucleus on its own, correct nuclear localization of pUL51 and pUL89 again required all three terminase constituents. Altogether, these features point to a model of the HCMV terminase as a multiprotein complex in which the three players regulate each other concerning stability, subcellular localization, and assembly into the functional tripartite holoenzyme.
IMPORTANCE HCMV is a major risk factor in immunocompromised individuals, and congenital CMV infection is the leading viral cause for long-term sequelae, including deafness and mental retardation. The current treatment of CMV disease is based on drugs sharing the same mechanism, namely, inhibiting viral DNA replication, and often results in adverse side effects and the appearance of resistant virus strains. Recently, the HCMV terminase has emerged as an auspicious target for novel antiviral drugs. A new drug candidate inhibiting the HCMV terminase, Letermovir, displayed excellent potency in clinical trials; however, its precise mode of action is not understood yet. Here, we describe the mutual dependence of the HCMV terminase constituents for their assembly into a functional terminase complex. Besides providing new basic insights into terminase formation, these results will be valuable when studying the mechanism of action for drugs targeting the HCMV terminase and developing additional substances interfering with viral genome encapsidation.