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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

  • Trimer Enhancement Mutation Effects on HIV-1 Matrix Protein Binding Activities [Structure and Assembly]

  • The HIV-1 matrix (MA) protein is the amino-terminal domain of the HIV-1 precursor Gag (Pr55Gag) protein. MA binds to membranes and RNAs, helps transport Pr55Gag proteins to virus assembly sites at the plasma membranes of infected cells, and facilitates the incorporation of HIV-1 envelope (Env) proteins into virions by virtue of an interaction with the Env protein cytoplasmic tails (CTs). MA has been shown to crystallize as a trimer and to organize on membranes in hexamer lattices. MA mutations that localize to residues near the ends of trimer spokes have been observed to impair Env protein assembly into virus particles, and several of these are suppressed by the 62QR mutation at the hubs of trimer interfaces. We have examined the binding activities of wild-type (WT) MA and 62QR MA variants and found that the 62QR mutation stabilized MA trimers but did not alter the way MA proteins organized on membranes. Relative to WT MA, the 62QR protein showed small effects on membrane and RNA binding. However, 62QR proteins bound significantly better to Env CTs than their WT counterparts, and CT binding efficiencies correlated with trimerization efficiencies. Our data suggest a model in which multivalent binding of trimeric HIV-1 Env proteins to MA trimers contributes to the process of Env virion incorporation.

    IMPORTANCE The HIV-1 Env proteins assemble as trimers, and incorporation of the proteins into virus particles requires an interaction of Env CT domains with the MA domains of the viral precursor Gag proteins. Despite this knowledge, little is known about the mechanisms by which MA facilitates the virion incorporation of Env proteins. To help elucidate this process, we examined the binding activities of an MA mutant that stabilizes MA trimers. We found that the mutant proteins organized similarly to WT proteins on membranes, and that mutant and WT proteins revealed only slight differences in their binding to RNAs or lipids. However, the mutant proteins showed better binding to Env CTs than the WT proteins, and CT binding correlated with MA trimerization. Our results suggest that multivalent binding of trimeric HIV-1 Env proteins to MA trimers contributes to the process of Env virion incorporation.

  • Contributions of Charged Residues in Structurally Dynamic Capsid Surface Loops to Rous Sarcoma Virus Assembly [Structure and Assembly]

  • Extensive studies of orthoretroviral capsids have shown that many regions of the CA protein play unique roles at different points in the virus life cycle. The N-terminal domain (NTD) flexible-loop (FL) region is one such example: exposed on the outer capsid surface, it has been implicated in Gag-mediated particle assembly, capsid maturation, and early replication events. We have now defined the contributions of charged residues in the FL region of the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) CA to particle assembly. Effects of mutations on assembly were assessed in vivo and in vitro and analyzed in light of new RSV Gag lattice models. Virus replication was strongly dependent on the preservation of charge at a few critical positions in Gag-Gag interfaces. In particular, a cluster of charges at the beginning of FL contributes to an extensive electrostatic network that is important for robust Gag assembly and subsequent capsid maturation. Second-site suppressor analysis suggests that one of these charged residues, D87, has distal influence on interhexamer interactions involving helix aalpha;7. Overall, the tolerance of FL to most mutations is consistent with current models of Gag lattice structures. However, the results support the interpretation that virus evolution has achieved a charge distribution across the capsid surface that (i) permits the packing of NTD domains in the outer layer of the Gag shell, (ii) directs the maturational rearrangements of the NTDs that yield a functional core structure, and (iii) supports capsid function during the early stages of virus infection.

    IMPORTANCE The production of infectious retrovirus particles is a complex process, a choreography of protein and nucleic acid that occurs in two distinct stages: formation and release from the cell of an immature particle followed by an extracellular maturation phase during which the virion proteins and nucleic acids undergo major rearrangements that activate the infectious potential of the virion. This study examines the contributions of charged amino acids on the surface of the Rous sarcoma virus capsid protein in the assembly of appropriately formed immature particles and the maturational transitions that create a functional virion. The results provide important biological evidence in support of recent structural models of the RSV immature virions and further suggest that immature particle assembly and virion maturation are controlled by an extensive network of electrostatic interactions and long-range communication across the capsid surface.

  • Novel Structure and Unexpected RNA-Binding Ability of the C-Terminal Domain of Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Tegument Protein UL21 [Structure and Assembly]

  • Proteins forming the tegument layers of herpesviral virions mediate many essential processes in the viral replication cycle, yet few have been characterized in detail. UL21 is one such multifunctional tegument protein and is conserved among alphaherpesviruses. While UL21 has been implicated in many processes in viral replication, ranging from nuclear egress to virion morphogenesis to cell-cell spread, its precise roles remain unclear. Here we report the 2.7-AAring; crystal structure of the C-terminal domain of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) UL21 (UL21C), which has a unique aalpha;-helical fold resembling a dragonfly. Analysis of evolutionary conservation patterns and surface electrostatics pinpointed four regions of potential functional importance on the surface of UL21C to be pursued by mutagenesis. In combination with the previously determined structure of the N-terminal domain of UL21, the structure of UL21C provides a 3-dimensional framework for targeted exploration of the multiple roles of UL21 in the replication and pathogenesis of alphaherpesviruses. Additionally, we describe an unanticipated ability of UL21 to bind RNA, which may hint at a yet unexplored function.

    IMPORTANCE Due to the limited genomic coding capacity of viruses, viral proteins are often multifunctional, which makes them attractive antiviral targets. Such multifunctionality, however, complicates their study, which often involves constructing and characterizing null mutant viruses. Systematic exploration of these multifunctional proteins requires detailed road maps in the form of 3-dimensional structures. In this work, we determined the crystal structure of the C-terminal domain of UL21, a multifunctional tegument protein that is conserved among alphaherpesviruses. Structural analysis pinpointed surface areas of potential functional importance that provide a starting point for mutagenesis. In addition, the unexpected RNA-binding ability of UL21 may expand its functional repertoire. The structure of UL21C and the observation of its RNA-binding ability are the latest additions to the navigational chart that can guide the exploration of the multiple functions of UL21.

  • Molecular Characterizations of Surface Proteins Hemagglutinin and Neuraminidase from Recent H5Nx Avian Influenza Viruses [Structure and Assembly]

  • During 2014, a subclade 2.3.4.4 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N8) virus caused poultry outbreaks around the world. In late 2014/early 2015, the virus was detected in wild birds in Canada and the United States, and these viruses also gave rise to reassortant progeny, composed of viral RNA segments (vRNAs) from both Eurasian and North American lineages. In particular, viruses were found with N1, N2, and N8 neuraminidase vRNAs, and these are collectively referred to as H5Nx viruses. In the United States, more than 48 million domestic birds have been affected. Here we present a detailed structural and biochemical analysis of the surface antigens of H5N1, H5N2, and H5N8 viruses in addition to those of a recent human H5N6 virus. Our results with recombinant hemagglutinin reveal that these viruses have a strict avian receptor binding preference, while recombinantly expressed neuraminidases are sensitive to FDA-approved and investigational antivirals. Although H5Nx viruses currently pose a low risk to humans, it is important to maintain surveillance of these circulating viruses and to continually assess future changes that may increase their pandemic potential.

    IMPORTANCE The H5Nx viruses emerging in North America, Europe, and Asia pose a great public health concern. Here we report a molecular and structural study of the major surface proteins of several H5Nx influenza viruses. Our results improve the understanding of these new viruses and provide important information on their receptor preferences and susceptibilities to antivirals, which are central to pandemic risk assessment.

  • Cell-Free Hepatitis B Virus Capsid Assembly Dependent on the Core Protein C-Terminal Domain and Regulated by Phosphorylation [Structure and Assembly]

  • Multiple subunits of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) core protein (HBc) assemble into an icosahedral capsid that packages the viral pregenomic RNA (pgRNA). The N-terminal domain (NTD) of HBc is sufficient for capsid assembly, in the absence of pgRNA or any other viral or host factors, under conditions of high HBc and/or salt concentrations. The C-terminal domain (CTD) is deemed dispensable for capsid assembly although it is essential for pgRNA packaging. We report here that HBc expressed in a mammalian cell lysate, rabbit reticulocyte lysate (RRL), was able to assemble into capsids when (low-nanomolar) HBc concentrations mimicked those achieved under conditions of viral replication in vivo and were far below those used previously for capsid assembly in vitro. Furthermore, at physiologically low HBc concentrations in RRL, the NTD was insufficient for capsid assembly and the CTD was also required. The CTD likely facilitated assembly under these conditions via RNA binding and protein-protein interactions. Moreover, the CTD underwent phosphorylation and dephosphorylation events in RRL similar to those seen in vivo which regulated capsid assembly. Importantly, the NTD alone also failed to accumulate in mammalian cells, likely resulting from its failure to assemble efficiently. Coexpression of the full-length HBc rescued NTD assembly in RRL as well as NTD expression and assembly in mammalian cells, resulting in the formation of mosaic capsids containing both full-length HBc and the NTD. These results have important implications for HBV assembly during replication and provide a facile cell-free system to study capsid assembly under physiologically relevant conditions, including its modulation by host factors.

    IMPORTANCE Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is an important global human pathogen and the main cause of liver cancer worldwide. An essential component of HBV is the spherical capsid composed of multiple copies of a single protein, the core protein (HBc). We have developed a mammalian cell-free system in which HBc is expressed at physiological (low) concentrations and assembles into capsids under near-physiological conditions. In this cell-free system, as in mammalian cells, capsid assembly depends on the C-terminal domain (CTD) of HBc, in contrast to other assembly systems in which HBc assembles into capsids independently of the CTD under conditions of nonphysiological protein and salt concentrations. Furthermore, the phosphorylation state of the CTD regulates capsid assembly and RNA encapsidation in the cell-free system in a manner similar to that seen in mammalian cells. This system will facilitate detailed studies on capsid assembly and RNA encapsidation under physiological conditions and identification of antiviral agents that target HBc.