Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus-encoded ovarian tumor protease activity is dispensable for virus RNA polymerase function.
ABSTRACT: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) is a tick-borne virus (genus Nairovirus, family Bunyaviridae) associated with high case fatality disease outbreaks in regions of Africa, Europe, and Asia. The CCHFV genome consists of three negative-strand RNA segments, S, M, and L. The unusually large virus L polymerase protein and the need for biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) containment conditions for work with infectious virus have hampered the study of CCHFV replication. The L protein has an ovarian tumor (OTU) protease domain located in the N terminus, which has led to speculation that the protein may be autoproteolytically cleaved to generate the active virus L polymerase and additional functions. We report the successful development of efficient CCHFV helper virus-independent S, M, and L segment minigenome systems for analysis of virus RNA and protein features involved in replication. The virus RNA segment S, M, and L untranslated regions were found to be similar in support of replication of the respective minigenomes. In addition, the OTU domain located in the N terminus of the expressed virus L protein was shown to be a functional protease. However, no evidence of L protein autoproteolytic processing was found, and the OTU protease activity was dispensable for virus RNA replication. Finally, physiologically relevant doses of ribavirin inhibited CCHFV minigenome replication. These results demonstrated the utility of the minigenome system for use in BSL-2 laboratory settings to analyze CCHFV biology and in antiviral drug discovery programs for this important public health and bioterrorism threat.
Project description:Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV), the fatal human pathogen is transmitted to humans by tick bite, or exposure to infected blood or tissues of infected livestock. The CCHFV genome consists of three RNA segments namely, S, M, and L. The unusual large viral L protein has an ovarian tumor (OTU) protease domain located in the N terminus. It is likely that the protein may be autoproteolytically cleaved to generate the active virus L polymerase with additional functions. Identification of the epitope regions of the virus is important for the diagnosis, phylogeny studies, and drug discovery. Early diagnosis and treatment of CCHF infection is critical to the survival of patients and the control of the disease. In this study, we undertook different in silico approaches using molecular docking and immunoinformatics tools to predict epitopes which can be helpful for vaccine designing. Small molecule ligands against OTU domain and protein-protein interaction between a viral and a host protein have been studied using docking tools.
Project description:Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) infection can result in a severe hemorrhagic syndrome for which there are no antiviral interventions available to date. Certain RNA viruses, such as CCHFV, encode cysteine proteases of the ovarian tumor (OTU) family that antagonize interferon (IFN) production by deconjugating ubiquitin (Ub). The OTU of CCHFV, a negative-strand RNA virus, is dispensable for replication of the viral genome, despite being part of the large viral RNA polymerase. Here, we show that mutations that prevent binding of the OTU to cellular ubiquitin are required for the generation of recombinant CCHFV containing a mutated catalytic cysteine. Similarly, the high-affinity binding of a synthetic ubiquitin variant (UbV-CC4) to CCHFV OTU strongly inhibits viral growth. UbV-CC4 inhibits CCHFV infection even in the absence of intact IFN signaling, suggesting that its antiviral activity is not due to blocking the OTU's immunosuppressive function. Instead, the prolonged occupancy of the OTU with UbV-CC4 directly targets viral replication by interfering with CCHFV RNA synthesis. Together, our data provide mechanistic details supporting the development of antivirals targeting viral OTUs.IMPORTANCE Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus is an important human pathogen with a wide global distribution for which no therapeutic interventions are available. CCHFV encodes a cysteine protease belonging to the ovarian tumor (OTU) family which is involved in host immune suppression. Here we demonstrate that artificially prolonged binding of the OTU to a substrate inhibits virus infection. This provides novel insights into CCHFV OTU function during the viral replicative cycle and highlights the OTU as a potential antiviral target.
Project description:Antiviral responses are regulated by conjugation of ubiquitin (Ub) and interferon-stimulated gene 15 (ISG15) to proteins. Certain classes of viruses encode Ub- or ISG15-specific proteases belonging to the ovarian tumor (OTU) superfamily. Their activity is thought to suppress cellular immune responses, but studies demonstrating the function of viral OTU proteases during infection are lacking. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV, family Nairoviridae) is a highly pathogenic human virus that encodes an OTU with both deubiquitinase and deISGylase activity as part of the viral RNA polymerase. We investigated CCHFV OTU function by inactivating protease catalytic activity or by selectively disrupting its deubiquitinase and deISGylase activity using reverse genetics. CCHFV OTU inactivation blocked viral replication independently of its RNA polymerase activity, while deubiquitinase activity proved critical for suppressing the interferon responses. Our findings provide insights into viral OTU functions and support the development of therapeutics and vaccines.
Project description:Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever virus (CCHFV; family Nairoviridae) is an extremely pathogenic member of the Bunyavirales order. Previous studies have shown that the N-terminal domain of the CCHFV polymerase (L) contains an ovarian tumor-type protease (OTU) domain with the capability to remove both ubiquitin and ISG15 molecules from proteins. The approximately 200 amino acids-long OTU domain, if ectopically expressed, can interfere with both the induction of antiviral type I interferons (IFN) as well as the IFN-stimulated signaling. A OTU protease mutant (C40A), by contrast, was inactive in that respect. However, the effect of the OTU protease activity in the context of the full-length L protein (approximately 4000 amino acids) is only poorly characterized, and recombinant CCHFV with the C40A mutation could not be rescued. Here, we employed transcriptionally active virus-like particles (tc-VLPs) to investigate the interaction between the L-embedded OTU protease and the IFN system. Our data show a cis requirement of the OTU protease for optimal CCHFV polymerase activity in human HuH-7 cells. The L-embedded OTU did not influence IFN signaling, the sensitivity to IFN, or IFN induction. Moreover, the attenuation of OTU C40A-mutated L could not be relieved by inactivating the IFN response, but after overexpression of conjugation-competent ISG15 the polymerase activity recovered to wild-type levels. Consequently, ISG15 was used to produce OTU-deficient tc-VLPs, a potential vaccine candidate. Our data thus indicate that in the context of full-length L the OTU domain is important for the regulation of CCHFV polymerase by ISG15.
Project description:Sosuga virus (SOSV) is a recently discovered zoonotic paramyxovirus isolated from a single human case in 2012; it has been ecologically and epidemiologically associated with transmission by the Egyptian rousette bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus). Bats have long been recognized as sources of novel zoonotic pathogens, including highly lethal paramyxoviruses like Nipah virus (NiV) and Hendra virus (HeV). The ability of SOSV to cause severe human disease supports the need for studies on SOSV pathogenesis to better understand the potential impact of this virus and to identify effective treatments. Here we describe a reverse genetics system for SOSV comprising a minigenome-based assay and a replication-competent infectious recombinant reporter SOSV that expresses the fluorescent protein ZsGreen1 in infected cells. First, we used the minigenome assay to rapidly screen for compounds inhibiting SOSV replication at biosafety level 2 (BSL-2). The antiviral activity of candidate compounds was then tested against authentic viral replication using the reporter SOSV at BSL-3. We identified several compounds with anti-SOSV activity, several of which also inhibit NiV and HeV. Alongside its utility in screening for potential SOSV therapeutics, the reverse genetics system described here is a powerful tool for analyzing mechanisms of SOSV pathogenesis, which will facilitate our understanding of how to combat the potential public health threats posed by emerging bat-borne paramyxoviruses.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) is a segmented negative-sense RNA virus that can cause severe human disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed CCHFVas a priority pathogen with an urgent need for enhanced research activities to develop effective countermeasures. Here we adopted a biochemical approach that targets the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). The CCHFV RdRp activity is part of a multifunctional L protein that is unusually large with a molecular weight of ~450 kDa. The CCHFV L-protein also contains an ovarian tumor (OTU) domain that exhibits deubiquitinating (DUB) activity, which was shown to interfere with innate immune responses and viral replication. We report on the expression, characterization and inhibition of the CCHFV full-length L-protein and studied both RNA synthesis and DUB activity. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPLE FINDINGS:Recombinant full-length CCHFV L protein was expressed in insect cells and purified to near homogeneity using affinity chromatography. RdRp activity was monitored with model primer/templates during elongation in the presence of divalent metal ions. We observed a 14-mer full length RNA product as well as the expected shorter products when omitting certain nucleotides from the reaction mixture. The D2517N mutation of the putative active site rendered the enzyme inactive. Inhibition of RNA synthesis was studies with the broad-spectrum antivirals ribavirin and favipiravir that mimic nucleotide substrates. The triphosphate form of these compounds act like ATP or GTP; however, incorporation of ATP or GTP is markedly favored over the inhibitors. We also studied the effects of bona fide nucleotide analogues 2'-deoxy-2'-fluoro-CTP (FdC) and 2'-deoxy-2'-amino-CTP and demonstrate increased inhibitory effects due to higher rates of incorporation. We further show that the CCHFV L full-length protein and the isolated OTU domain cleave Lys48- and Lys63-linked polyubiqutin chains. Moreover, the ubiquitin analogue CC.4 inhibits the CCHFV-associated DUB activity of the full-length L protein and the isolated DUB domain to a similar extent. Inhibition of DUB activity does not affect elongation of RNA synthesis, and inhibition of RNA synthesis does not affect DUB activity. Both domains are functionally independent under these conditions. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:The requirements for high biosafety measures hamper drug discovery and development efforts with infectious CCHFV. The availability of full-length CCHFV L-protein provides an important tool in this regard. High-throughput screening (HTS) campaigns are now feasible. The same enzyme preparations can be employed to identify novel polymerase and DUB inhibitors.
Project description:Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) is an emerging tick-borne virus of the Bunyaviridae family that is responsible for a fatal human disease for which preventative or therapeutic measures do not exist. We solved the crystal structure of the CCHFV strain Baghdad-12 nucleocapsid protein (N), a potential therapeutic target, at a resolution of 2.1 Å. N comprises a large globular domain composed of both N- and C-terminal sequences, likely involved in RNA binding, and a protruding arm domain with a conserved DEVD caspase-3 cleavage site at its apex. Alignment of our structure with that of the recently reported N protein from strain YL04057 shows a close correspondence of all folds but significant transposition of the arm through a rotation of 180 degrees and a translation of 40 Å. These observations suggest a structural flexibility that may provide the basis for switching between alternative N protein conformations during important functions such as RNA binding and oligomerization. Our structure reveals surfaces likely involved in RNA binding and oligomerization, and functionally critical residues within these domains were identified using a minigenome system able to recapitulate CCHFV-specific RNA synthesis in cells. Caspase-3 cleaves the polypeptide chain at the exposed DEVD motif; however, the cleaved N protein remains an intact unit, likely due to the intimate association of N- and C-terminal fragments in the globular domain. Structural alignment with existing N proteins reveals that the closest CCHFV relative is not another bunyavirus but the arenavirus Lassa virus instead, suggesting that current segmented negative-strand RNA virus taxonomy may need revision.
Project description:Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a zoonotic disease caused by a nairovirus belonging to family Bunyaviridae. The CCHF virus (CCHFV) can be transmitted to humans by Hyalomma ticks as well as by direct contact with infected body fluids or tissues from viremic livestock or humans. Our aim was to set up a fast RT-qPCR for detection of the different CCHFV genotypes in clinical samples, including an inactivation step to make the sample handling possible in lower biosafety levels (BSL) than BSL-4. This method was evaluated against commercial reference assays and international External Quality Assessment (EQA) samples. The analytical limit of detection for the developed CCHFV-S RT-qPCR was 11 CCHFV genomes per reaction. After exclusion of four dubious samples, we studied 38 CCHFV-positive samples (using reference tests) of which 38 were found positive by CCHFV-S RT-qPCR, suggesting a sensitivity of 100%. CCHFV-S RT q-PCR detected all eight different CCHFV strains representing five different CCHFV genotypes. In conclusion, the CCHFV-S RT-qPCR described in this study was evaluated using various sources of CCHFV samples and shown to be an accurate tool to detect human CCHFV infection caused by different genotypes of the virus.
Project description:For highly pathogenic viruses, reporter assays that can be rapidly performed are critically needed to identify potentially functional mutations for further study under maximal containment (e.g., biosafety level 4 [BSL-4]). The Ebola virus nucleoprotein (NP) plays multiple essential roles during the viral life cycle, yet few tools exist to study the protein under BSL-2 or equivalent containment. Therefore, we adapted reporter assays to measure NP oligomerization and virion-like particle (VLP) production in live cells and further measured transcription and replication using established minigenome assays. As a proof-of-concept, we examined the NP-R111C substitution, which emerged during the 2013?2016 Western African Ebola virus disease epidemic and rose to high frequency. NP-R111C slightly increased NP oligomerization and VLP budding but slightly decreased transcription and replication. By contrast, a synthetic charge-reversal mutant, NP-R111E, greatly increased oligomerization but abrogated transcription and replication. These results are intriguing in light of recent structures of NP oligomers, which reveal that the neighboring residue, K110, forms a salt bridge with E349 on adjacent NP molecules. By developing and utilizing multiple reporter assays, we find that the NP-111 position mediates a complex interplay between NP's roles in protein structure, virion budding, and transcription and replication.
Project description:Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) is a negative-strand RNA virus of the family Bunyaviridae (genus: Nairovirus). In humans, CCHFV causes fever, hemorrhage, severe thrombocytopenia, and high fatality. A major impediment in precisely determining the basis of CCHFV's high pathogenicity has been the lack of methodology to produce recombinant CCHFV. We developed a reverse genetics system based on transfecting plasmids into BSR-T7/5 and Huh7 cells. In our system, bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase produced complementary RNA copies of the viral S, M, and L segments that were encapsidated with the support, in trans, of CCHFV nucleoprotein and L polymerase. The system was optimized to systematically recover high yields of infectious CCHFV. Additionally, we tested the ability of the system to produce specifically designed CCHFV mutants. The M segment encodes a polyprotein that is processed by host proprotein convertases (PCs), including the site-1 protease (S1P) and furin-like PCs. S1P and furin cleavages are necessary for producing the non-structural glycoprotein GP38, while S1P cleavage yields structural Gn. We studied the role of furin cleavage by rescuing a recombinant CCHFV encoding a virus glycoprotein precursor lacking a functional furin cleavage motif (RSKR mutated to ASKA). The ASKA mutation blocked glycoprotein precursor's maturation to GP38, and Gn precursor's maturation to Gn was slightly diminished. Furin cleavage was not essential for replication, as blocking furin cleavage resulted only in transient reduction of CCHFV titers, suggesting that either GP38 and/or decreased Gn maturation accounted for the reduced virion production. Our data demonstrate that nairoviruses can be produced by reverse genetics, and the utility of our system uncovered a function for furin cleavage. This viral rescue system could be further used to study the CCHFV replication cycle and facilitate the development of efficacious vaccines to counter this biological and public health threat.