Structural basis for therapeutic inhibition of influenza A polymerase PB2 subunit.
ABSTRACT: Influenza virus uses a unique mechanism to initiate viral transcription named cap-snatching. The PB2 subunit of the viral heterotrimeric RNA polymerase binds the cap structure of cellular pre-mRNA to promote its cleavage by the PA subunit. The resulting 11-13 capped oligomer is used by the PB1 polymerase subunit to initiate transcription of viral proteins. VX-787 is an inhibitor of the influenza A virus pre-mRNA cap-binding protein PB2. This clinical stage compound was shown to bind the minimal cap-binding domain of PB2 to inhibit the cap-snatching machinery. However, the binding of this molecule in the context of an extended form of the PB2 subunit has remained elusive. Here we generated a collection of PB2 truncations to identify a PB2 protein representative of its structure in the viral heterotrimeric protein. We present the crystal structure of VX-787 bound to a PB2 construct that recapitulates VX-787's biological antiviral activity in vitro. This co-structure reveals more extensive interactions than previously identified and provides insight into the observed resistance profile, affinity, binding kinetics, and conformational rearrangements induced by VX-787.
Project description:VX-787 is a novel inhibitor of influenza virus replication that blocks the PB2 cap-snatching activity of the influenza viral polymerase complex. Viral genetics and X-ray crystallography studies provide support for the idea that VX-787 occupies the 7-methyl GTP (m(7)GTP) cap-binding site of PB2. VX-787 binds the cap-binding domain of the PB2 subunit with a KD (dissociation constant) of 24 nM as determined by isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC). The cell-based EC50 (the concentration of compound that ensures 50% cell viability of an uninfected control) for VX-787 is 1.6 nM in a cytopathic effect (CPE) assay, with a similar EC50 in a viral RNA replication assay. VX-787 is active against a diverse panel of influenza A virus strains, including H1N1pdm09 and H5N1 strains, as well as strains with reduced susceptibility to neuraminidase inhibitors (NAIs). VX-787 was highly efficacious in both prophylaxis and treatment models of mouse influenza and was superior to the neuraminidase inhibitor, oseltamivir, including in delayed-start-to-treat experiments, with 100% survival at up to 96 h postinfection and partial survival in groups where the initiation of therapy was delayed up to 120 h postinfection. At different doses, VX-787 showed a 1-log to >5-log reduction in viral load (relative to vehicle controls) in mouse lungs. Overall, these favorable findings validate the PB2 subunit of the viral polymerase as a drug target for influenza therapy and support the continued development of VX-787 as a novel antiviral agent for the treatment of influenza infection.
Project description:Orthomyxovirus Influenza A virus (IAV) heterotrimeric polymerase performs transcription of viral mRNAs by cap-snatching, which involves generation of capped primers by host pre-mRNA binding via the PB2 subunit cap-binding site and cleavage 10-13 nucleotides from the 5' cap by the PA subunit endonuclease. Thogotoviruses, tick-borne orthomyxoviruses that includes Thogoto (THOV), Dhori (DHOV) and Jos (JOSV) viruses, are thought to perform cap-snatching by cleaving directly after the cap and thus have no heterogeneous, host-derived sequences at the 5' extremity of their mRNAs. Based on recent work identifying the cap-binding and endonuclease domains in IAV polymerase, we determined the crystal structures of two THOV PB2 domains, the putative cap-binding and the so-called '627-domain', and the structures of the putative endonuclease domains (PA-Nter) of THOV and DHOV. Despite low sequence similarity, corresponding domains have the same fold confirming the overall architectural similarity of orthomyxovirus polymerases. However the putative Thogotovirus cap-snatching domains in PA and PB2 have non-conservative substitutions of key active site residues. Biochemical analysis confirms that, unlike the IAV domains, the THOV and DHOV PA-Nter domains do not bind divalent cations and have no endonuclease activity and the THOV central PB2 domain does not bind cap analogues. On the other hand, sequence analysis suggests that other, non-influenza, orthomyxoviruses, such as salmon anemia virus (isavirus) and Quaranfil virus likely conserve active cap-snatching domains correlating with the reported occurrence of heterogeneous, host-derived sequences at the 5' end of the mRNAs of these viruses. These results highlight the unusual nature of transcription initiation by Thogotoviruses.
Project description:Influenza polymerase uses short capped primers snatched from nascent Pol II transcripts to initiate transcription of viral mRNAs. Here we describe crystal structures of influenza A and B polymerase bound to a capped primer in a configuration consistent with transcription initiation ('priming state') and show by functional assays that conserved residues from both the PB2 midlink and cap-binding domains are important for positioning the capped RNA. In particular, mutation of PB2 Arg264, which interacts with the triphosphate linkage in the cap, significantly and specifically decreases cap-dependent transcription. We also compare the configuration of the midlink and cap-binding domains in the priming state with their very different relative arrangement (called the 'apo' state) in structures where the potent cap-binding inhibitor VX-787, or a close analogue, is bound. In the 'apo' state the inhibitor makes additional interactions to the midlink domain that increases its affinity beyond that to the cap-binding domain alone. The comparison suggests that the mechanism of resistance of certain mutations that allow virus to escape from VX-787, notably PB2 N510T, can only be rationalized if VX-787 has a dual mode of action, direct inhibition of capped RNA binding as well as stabilization of the transcriptionally inactive 'apo' state.
Project description:The RNA genome of influenza A viruses is transcribed and replicated by the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, composed of the subunits PA, PB1, and PB2. High-resolution structural data revealed that the polymerase assembles into a central polymerase core and several auxiliary highly flexible, protruding domains. The auxiliary PB2 cap-binding and the PA endonuclease domains are both involved in cap snatching, but the role of the auxiliary PB2 627 domain, implicated in host range restriction of influenza A viruses, is still poorly understood. In this study, we used structure-guided truncations of the PB2 subunit to show that a PB2 subunit lacking the 627 domain accumulates in the cell nucleus and assembles into a heterotrimeric polymerase with PB1 and PA. Furthermore, we showed that a recombinant viral polymerase lacking the PB2 627 domain is able to carry out cap snatching, cap-dependent transcription initiation, and cap-independent ApG dinucleotide extension in vitro, indicating that the PB2 627 domain of the influenza virus RNA polymerase is not involved in core catalytic functions of the polymerase. However, in a cellular context, the 627 domain is essential for both transcription and replication. In particular, we showed that the PB2 627 domain is essential for the accumulation of the cRNA replicative intermediate in infected cells. Together, these results further our understanding of the role of the PB2 627 domain in transcription and replication of the influenza virus RNA genome.IMPORTANCE Influenza A viruses are a major global health threat, not only causing disease in both humans and birds but also placing significant strains on economies worldwide. Avian influenza A virus polymerases typically do not function efficiently in mammalian hosts and require adaptive mutations to restore polymerase activity. These adaptations include mutations in the 627 domain of the PB2 subunit of the viral polymerase, but it still remains to be established how these mutations enable host adaptation on a molecular level. In this report, we characterize the role of the 627 domain in polymerase function and offer insights into the replication mechanism of influenza A viruses.
Project description:Influenza virus polymerase catalyzes the transcription of viral mRNAs by a process known as "cap-snatching," where the 5'-cap of cellular pre-mRNA is recognized by the PB2 subunit and cleaved 10-13 nucleotides downstream of the cap by the endonuclease PA subunit. Although this mechanism is common to both influenza A (FluA) and influenza B (FluB) viruses, FluB PB2 recognizes a wider range of cap structures including m(7)GpppGm-, m(7)GpppG-, and GpppG-RNA, whereas FluA PB2 utilizes methylated G-capped RNA specifically. Biophysical studies with isolated PB2 cap-binding domain (PB2(cap)) confirm that FluB PB2 has expanded mRNA cap recognition capability, although the affinities toward m(7)GTP are significantly reduced when compared with FluA PB2. The x-ray co-structures of the FluB PB2(cap) with bound cap analogs m(7)GTP and GTP reveal an inverted GTP binding mode that is distinct from the cognate m(7)GTP binding mode shared between FluA and FluB PB2. These results delineate the commonalities and differences in the cap-binding site between FluA and FluB PB2 and will aid structure-guided drug design efforts to identify dual inhibitors of both FluA and FluB PB2.
Project description:It is generally recognised that novel antiviral drugs, less prone to resistance, would be a desirable alternative to current drug options in order to be able to treat potentially serious influenza infections. The viral polymerase, which performs transcription and replication of the RNA genome, is an attractive target for antiviral drugs since potent polymerase inhibitors could directly stop viral replication at an early stage. Recent structural studies on functional domains of the heterotrimeric polymerase, which comprises subunits PA, PB1 and PB2, open the way to a structure based approach to optimise inhibitors of viral replication. In particular, the unique cap-snatching mechanism of viral transcription can be inhibited by targeting either the PB2 cap-binding or PA endonuclease domains. Here we describe high resolution X-ray co-crystal structures of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) PA endonuclease domain with a series of specific inhibitors, including four diketo compounds and a green tea catechin, all of which chelate the two critical manganese ions in the active site of the enzyme. Comparison of the binding mode of the different compounds and that of a mononucleotide phosphate highlights, firstly, how different substituent groups on the basic metal binding scaffold can be orientated to bind in distinct sub-pockets within the active site cavity, and secondly, the plasticity of certain structural elements of the active site cavity, which result in induced fit binding. These results will be important in optimising the design of more potent inhibitors targeting the cap-snatching endonuclease activity of influenza virus polymerase.
Project description:Cap-snatching was first discovered in influenza virus. Structures of the involved domains of the influenza virus polymerase, namely the endonuclease in the PA subunit and the cap-binding domain in the PB2 subunit, have been solved. Cap-snatching endonucleases have also been demonstrated at the very N-terminus of the L proteins of mammarena-, orthobunya-, and hantaviruses. However, a cap-binding domain has not been identified in an arena- or bunyavirus L protein so far. We solved the structure of the 326 C-terminal residues of the L protein of California Academy of Sciences virus (CASV), a reptarenavirus, by X-ray crystallography. The individual domains of this 37-kDa fragment (L-Cterm) as well as the domain arrangement are structurally similar to the cap-binding and adjacent domains of influenza virus polymerase PB2 subunit, despite the absence of sequence homology, suggesting a common evolutionary origin. This enabled identification of a region in CASV L-Cterm with similarity to a cap-binding site; however, the typical sandwich of two aromatic residues was missing. Consistent with this, cap-binding to CASV L-Cterm could not be detected biochemically. In addition, we solved the crystal structure of the corresponding endonuclease in the N-terminus of CASV L protein. It shows a typical endonuclease fold with an active site configuration that is essentially identical to that of known mammarenavirus endonuclease structures. In conclusion, we provide evidence for a presumably functional cap-snatching endonuclease in the N-terminus and a degenerate cap-binding domain in the C-terminus of a reptarenavirus L protein. Implications of these findings for the cap-snatching mechanism in arenaviruses are discussed.
Project description:Influenza virus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (vRdRp) does not have capping activity and relies on the capped RNAs produced by the host RNA polymerase II (RNAPII). The viral polymerases process the capped RNAs to produce short capped RNA fragments that are used as primers to initiate the transcription of viral mRNAs. This process, known as cap-snatching, can be targeted by antiviral therapeutics. Here, anthralin was identified as an inhibitor against influenza a virus (IAV) infection by targeting the cap-snatching activity of the viral polymerase. Anthralin, an FDA-approved drug used in the treatment of psoriasis, shows antiviral activity against IAV infection in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, anthralin significantly reduces weight loss, lung injury, and mortality caused by IAV infection in mice. The mechanism of action study revealed that anthralin inhibits the cap-binding function of PB2 subunit and endonuclease activity of PA. As a result, viral mRNA transcription is blocked, leading to the decreases in viral RNA replication and viral protein expression. In conclusion, anthralin has been demonstrated to have the potential of an alternative antiviral against influenza virus infection. Also, targeting the captive pocket structure that includes the N-terminus of PA endonuclease domain and the C-terminal of PB2 cap-binding domain of IAV RdRp may be an excellent strategy for developing anti-influenza drugs.
Project description:Influenza viruses cause seasonal epidemics and pandemic outbreaks associated with significant morbidity and mortality, and a huge cost. Since resistance to the existing anti-influenza drugs is rising, innovative inhibitors with a different mode of action are urgently needed. The influenza polymerase complex is widely recognized as a key drug target, given its critical role in virus replication and high degree of conservation among influenza A (of human or zoonotic origin) and B viruses. We here review the major progress that has been made in recent years in unravelling the structure and functions of this protein complex, enabling structure-aided drug design toward the core regions of the PA endonuclease, PB1 polymerase, or cap-binding PB2 subunit. Alternatively, inhibitors may target a protein-protein interaction site, a cellular factor involved in viral RNA synthesis, the viral RNA itself, or the nucleoprotein component of the viral ribonucleoprotein. The latest advances made for these diverse pharmacological targets have yielded agents in advanced (i.e., favipiravir and VX-787) or early clinical testing, besides several experimental inhibitors in various stages of development, which are all covered here.
Project description:Influenza virus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase is a multi-functional heterotrimer, which uses a 'cap-snatching' mechanism to produce viral mRNA. Host cell mRNA is cleaved to yield a cap-bearing oligonucleotide, which can be extended using viral genomic RNA as a template. The cap-binding and endonuclease activities are only activated once viral genomic RNA is bound. This requires signalling from the RNA-binding PB1 subunit to the cap-binding PB2 subunit, and the interface between these two subunits is essential for the polymerase activity. We have defined this interaction surface by protein crystallography and tested the effects of mutating contact residues on the function of the holo-enzyme. This novel interface is surprisingly small, yet, it has a crucial function in regulating the 250 kDa polymerase complex and is completely conserved among avian and human influenza viruses.