Functional and structural studies of the vaccinia virus virulence factor N1 reveal a Bcl-2-like anti-apoptotic protein.
ABSTRACT: Vaccinia virus (VACV) encodes many immunomodulatory proteins, including inhibitors of apoptosis and modulators of innate immune signalling. VACV protein N1 is an intracellular homodimer that contributes to virus virulence and was reported to inhibit nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB signalling. However, analysis of NF-kappaB signalling in cells infected with recombinant viruses with or without the N1L gene showed no difference in NF-kappaB-dependent gene expression. Given that N1 promotes virus virulence, other possible functions of N1 were investigated and this revealed that N1 is an inhibitor of apoptosis in cells transfected with the N1L gene and in the context of VACV infection. In support of this finding virally expressed N1 co-precipitated with endogenous pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins Bid, Bad and Bax as well as with Bad and Bax expressed by transfection. In addition, the crystal structure of N1 was solved to 2.9 A resolution (0.29 nm). Remarkably, although N1 shows no sequence similarity to cellular proteins, its three-dimensional structure closely resembles Bcl-x(L) and other members of the Bcl-2 protein family. The structure also reveals that N1 has a constitutively open surface groove similar to the grooves of other anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins, which bind the BH3 motifs of pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members. Molecular modelling of BH3 peptides into the N1 surface groove, together with analysis of their physico-chemical properties, suggests a mechanism for the specificity of peptide recognition. This study illustrates the importance of the evolutionary conservation of structure, rather than sequence, in protein function and reveals a novel anti-apoptotic protein from orthopoxviruses.
Project description:Vaccinia virus (VACV), the prototype poxvirus, encodes numerous proteins that modulate the host response to infection. Two such proteins, B14 and A52, act inside infected cells to inhibit activation of NF-kappaB, thereby blocking the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. We have solved the crystal structures of A52 and B14 at 1.9 A and 2.7 A resolution, respectively. Strikingly, both these proteins adopt a Bcl-2-like fold despite sharing no significant sequence similarity with other viral or cellular Bcl-2-like proteins. Unlike cellular and viral Bcl-2-like proteins described previously, A52 and B14 lack a surface groove for binding BH3 peptides from pro-apoptotic Bcl-2-like proteins and they do not modulate apoptosis. Structure-based phylogenetic analysis of 32 cellular and viral Bcl-2-like protein structures reveals that A52 and B14 are more closely related to each other and to VACV N1 and myxoma virus M11 than they are to other viral or cellular Bcl-2-like proteins. This suggests that a progenitor poxvirus acquired a gene encoding a Bcl-2-like protein and, over the course of evolution, gene duplication events have allowed the virus to exploit this Bcl-2 scaffold for interfering with distinct host signalling pathways.
Project description:Vaccinia virus (VACV) protein N1 is an intracellular virulence factor and belongs to a family of VACV B-cell lymphoma (Bcl)-2-like proteins whose members inhibit apoptosis or activation of pro-inflammatory transcription factors, such as interferon (IFN) regulatory factor-3 (IRF-3) and nuclear factor-?B (NF-?B). Unusually, N1 inhibits both apoptosis and NF-?B activation. To understand how N1 exerts these different functions, we have mutated residues in the Bcl-2-like surface groove and at the interface used to form N1 homodimers. Mutagenesis of the surface groove abolished only the N1 anti-apoptotic activity and protein crystallography showed these mutants differed from wild-type N1 only at the site of mutation. Conversely, mutagenesis of the dimer interface converted N1 to a monomer and affected only inhibition of NF-?B activation. Collectively, these data show that N1 inhibits pro-inflammatory and pro-apoptotic signalling using independent surfaces of the protein. To determine the relative contribution of each activity to virus virulence, mutant N1 alleles were introduced into a VACV strain lacking N1 and the virulence of these viruses was analysed after intradermal and intranasal inoculation in mice. In both models, VACV containing a mutant N1 unable to inhibit apoptosis had similar virulence to wild-type virus, whereas VACV containing a mutant N1 impaired for NF-?B inhibition induced an attenuated infection similar to that of the N1-deleted virus. This indicates that anti-apoptotic activity of N1 does not drive virulence in these in vivo models, and highlights the importance of pro-inflammatory signalling in the immune response against viral infections.
Project description:Poxviruses encode immuno-modulatory proteins capable of subverting host defenses. The poxvirus vaccinia expresses a small 14-kDa protein, N1L, that is critical for virulence. We report the crystal structure of N1L, which reveals an unexpected but striking resemblance to host apoptotic regulators of the B cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2) family. Although N1L lacks detectable Bcl-2 homology (BH) motifs at the sequence level, we show that N1L binds with high affinity to the BH3 peptides of pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins in vitro, consistent with a role for N1L in modulating host antiviral defenses.
Project description:Factors influencing T-cell responses are important for vaccine development but are incompletely understood. Here, vaccinia virus (VACV) protein N1 is shown to impair the development of both effector and memory CD8(+) T cells and this correlates with its inhibition of nuclear factor-?B (NF-?B) activation. Infection with VACVs that either have the N1L gene deleted (v?N1) or contain a I6E mutation (vN1.I6E) that abrogates its inhibition of NF-?B resulted in increased central and memory CD8(+) T-cell populations, increased CD8(+) T-cell cytotoxicity and lower virus titres after challenge. Furthermore, CD8(+) memory T-cell function was increased following infection with vN1.I6E, with more interferon-? production and greater protection against VACV infection following passive transfer to naive mice, compared with CD8(+) T cells from mice infected with wild-type virus (vN1.WT). This demonstrates the importance of NF-?B activation within infected cells for long-term CD8(+) T-cell memory and vaccine efficacy. Further, it provides a rationale for deleting N1 from VACV vectors to enhance CD8(+) T-cell immunogenicity, while simultaneously reducing virulence to improve vaccine safety.
Project description:The 14 kDa homodimeric N1L protein is a potent vaccinia and variola (smallpox) virulence factor. It is not essential for viral replication, but it causes a strong attenuation of viral production in culture when deleted. The N1L protein is predicted to contain the BH3-like binding domain characteristic of Bcl-2 family proteins, and it is able to bind the BH3 peptides. Its overexpression has been reported to prevent infected cells from committing apoptosis. Therefore, interfering with the N1L apoptotic blockade may be a legitimate therapeutic strategy affecting the viral growth. By using in silico ligand docking and an array of in vitro assays, we have identified submicromolar (600 nM) N1L antagonists belonging to the family of polyphenols. Their affinity is comparable to that of the BH3 peptides (70-1000 nM). We have also identified the natural polyphenol resveratrol as a moderate N1L inhibitor. Finally, we show that our ligands efficiently inhibit growth of vaccinia virus.
Project description:Increased interactions between pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins at mitochondria result in tumor initiation, progression and resistance to traditional chemotherapy. Drugs that mimic the BH3 region are expected to release BH3-only proteins from anti-apoptotic proteins, inducing apoptosis in some cancer cells and sensitizing others to chemotherapy. Recently, we applied fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy and fluorescence resonance energy transfer to measure protein:protein interactions for the Bcl-2 family of proteins in live MCF-7 cells using fluorescent fusion proteins. While the BH3-proteins bound to Bcl-XL and Bcl-2, the BH3 mimetic ABT-737 inhibited binding of only Bad and tBid, but not Bim. We have extended our studies by investigating ABT-263, a clinical drug based on ABT-737. We show that the inhibitory effects and pattern of the two drugs are comparable for both Bcl-XL and Bcl-2. Furthermore, we show that mutation of a conserved residue in the BH3 region in Bad and tBid disrupted their interactions with Bcl-XL and Bcl-2, while the corresponding BimEL mutant showed no decrease in binding to these anti-apoptotic proteins. Therefore, in MCF-7 cells, Bim has unique binding properties compared with other BH3-only proteins that resist displacement from Bcl-XL and Bcl-2 by BH3 mimetics.
Project description:Bcl-2 family proteins play a crucial role in regulating apoptosis, a process critical for development, eliminating damaged or infected cells, host-pathogen interactions and in disease. Dysregulation of Bcl-2 proteins elicits an expansive cell survival mechanism promoting cell migration, invasion and metastasis. Through a network of intra-family protein-protein interactions Bcl-2 family members regulate the release of cell death factors from mitochondria. NRZ is a novel zebrafish pro-survival Bcl-2 orthologue resident on mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). However, the mechanism of NRZ apoptosis inhibition has not yet been clarified. Here we examined the interactions of NRZ with pro-apoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family using a combination of isothermal calorimetry and mutational analysis of NRZ. We show that NRZ binds almost all zebrafish pro-apoptotic proteins and displays a broad range of affinities. Furthermore, we define the structural basis for apoptosis inhibition of NRZ by solving the crystal structure of both apo-NRZ and a holo form bound to a peptide spanning the binding motif of the pro-apoptotic zBad, a BH3-only protein orthologous to mammalian Bad. The crystal structure of NRZ revealed that it adopts the conserved Bcl-2 like fold observed for other cellular pro-survival Bcl-2 proteins and employs the canonical ligand binding groove to bind Bad BH3 peptide. NRZ engagement of Bad BH3 involves the canonical ionic interaction between NRZ R86 and Bad D104 and an additional ionic interaction between NRZ D79 and Bad R100, and substitution of either NRZ R86 or D79 to Ala reduces the binding to Bad BH3 tenfold or more. Our findings provide a detailed mechanistic understanding for NRZ mediated anti-apoptotic activity in zebrafish by revealing binding to both Bad and Noxa, suggesting that NRZ is likely to occupy a unique mechanistic role in zebrafish apoptosis regulation by acting as a highly promiscuous pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 binder.
Project description:Gonadotropin-regulated testicular helicase (GRTH)/DDX25 is an essential post-transcriptional regulator of spermatogenesis. In GRTH null mice severe apoptosis was observed in spermatocytes entering the metaphase of meiosis. Pro- and anti-apoptotic factors were found to be under GRTH regulation in comparative studies of spermatocytes from wild type and GRTH(-/-) knock-out (KO) mice. KO mice displayed decreased levels of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL (anti-apoptotic factors), an increase in Bid, Bak, and Bad (pro-apoptotic), reduced phospho-Bad, and release of cytochrome c. Also, an increase on Smac, a competitor of inhibitor apoptotic proteins that release caspases, was observed. These changes caused an increase in cleavage of caspases 9 and 3, activation of caspase 3 and increases in cleavage products of PARP. The half-life of caspase 3 transcripts was markedly increased in KO, indicating that GRTH had a negative role on its mRNA stability. IkappaBalpha, which sequesters NF-kappaB from its transcriptional activation of pro-apoptotic genes, was highly elevated in KO, and its phospho-form, which promotes its dissociation, was reduced. The increase of HDAC1 and abolition of p300 expression in KO indicated a nuclear action of GRTH on the NF-kappaB-mediated transcription of anti-apoptotic genes. It also regulates the associated death domain pathway and caspase 8-mediated events. GRTH-mediated apoptotic regulation was further indicated by its selective binding to pro- and anti-apoptotic mRNAs. These studies have demonstrated that GRTH, as a component of mRNP particles, acts as a negative regulator of the tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 and caspase pathways and promotes NF-kappaB function to control apoptosis in spermatocytes of adult mice.
Project description:A critical hallmark of cancer cell survival is evasion of apoptosis. This is commonly due to overexpression of anti-apoptotic proteins such as Bcl-2, Bcl-X(L), and Mcl-1, which bind to the BH3 ?-helical domain of pro-apoptotic proteins such as Bax, Bak, Bad, and Bim, and inhibit their function. We designed a BH3 ?-helical mimetic BH3-M6 that binds to Bcl-X(L) and Mcl-1 and prevents their binding to fluorescently labeled Bak- or Bim-BH3 peptides in vitro. Using several approaches, we demonstrate that BH3-M6 is a pan-Bcl-2 antagonist that inhibits the binding of Bcl-X(L), Bcl-2, and Mcl-1 to multi-domain Bax or Bak, or BH3-only Bim or Bad in cell-free systems and in intact human cancer cells, freeing up pro-apoptotic proteins to induce apoptosis. BH3-M6 disruption of these protein-protein interactions is associated with cytochrome c release from mitochondria, caspase-3 activation and PARP cleavage. Using caspase inhibitors and Bax and Bak siRNAs, we demonstrate that BH3-M6-induced apoptosis is caspase- and Bax-, but not Bak-dependent. Furthermore, BH3-M6 disrupts Bcl-X(L)/Bim, Bcl-2/Bim, and Mcl-1/Bim protein-protein interactions and frees up Bim to induce apoptosis in human cancer cells that depend for tumor survival on the neutralization of Bim with Bcl-X(L), Bcl-2, or Mcl-1. Finally, BH3-M6 sensitizes cells to apoptosis induced by the proteasome inhibitor CEP-1612.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) is a crucial step leading to apoptotic destruction of cancer cells. Bcl-2 family proteins delicately regulate mitochondrial outer membrane integrity through protein-protein interactions, which makes the mitochondrion an ideal cell-free system for screening molecules targeting the Bcl-2 anti-apoptotic proteins. But assay conditions need to be optimized for more reliable results. In this study, we aimed at establishing a reliable functional assay using mitochondria isolated from breast cancer cells to decipher the mode of action of BH3 peptides derived from BH3-only proteins. In this study, high ionic strength buffer was adopted during the initiation of MOMP. Mitochondria isolated from human breast cancer cell lines with distinct expression patterns of Bcl-2 anti-apoptotic proteins were permeabilized by different BH3 peptides alone or in combination, with or without the presence of recombinant anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins. Cytochrome C and Smac/Diablo were tested in both supernatants and mitochondrial pellets by Western blotting. RESULTS: Sufficient ionic strength was required for optimal release of Cytochrome C. Bad and Noxa BH3 peptides exhibited their bona fide antagonistic effects against Bcl-2/Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 proteins, respectively, whereas Bim BH3 peptide antagonized all three anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 members. Bad and Noxa peptides synergized with each other in the induction of MOMP when mitochondria were dually protected by both Bcl-2/Bcl-xL and Mcl-1. CONCLUSIONS: This method based on MOMP is a useful screening tool for identifying BH3 mimetics with selective toxicity against breast cancer cell mitochondria protected by the three major Bcl-2 anti-apoptotic proteins.