Characterization of Virus Capsids and Their Assembly Intermediates by Multicycle Resistive-Pulse Sensing with Four Pores in Series.
ABSTRACT: Virus self-assembly is a critical step in the virus lifecycle. Understanding how viruses assemble and disassemble provides needed insight into developing antiviral pharmaceuticals. Few tools offer sufficient resolution to study assembly intermediates that differ in size by a few dimers. Our goal is to improve resistive-pulse sensing on nanofluidic devices to offer better particle-size and temporal resolution to study intermediates and capsids generated along the assembly pathway. To increase the particle-size resolution of the resistive-pulse technique, we measured the same, single virus particles up to a thousand times, cycling them back and forth across a series of nanopores by switching the polarity of the applied potential, i.e., virus ping-pong. Multiple pores in series provide a unique multipulse signature during each cycle that improves particle tracking and, therefore, identification of a single particle and reduces the number of cycles needed to make the requisite number of measurements. With T = 3 and T = 4 hepatitis B virus (HBV) capsids, we showed the standard deviation of the particle-size distribution decreased with the square root of the number of measurements and approached discriminating particles differing in size by single dimers. We then studied in vitro assembly of HBV capsids and observed that the ensemble of intermediates shift to larger sizes over 2 days of annealing. On the contrary, assembly reactions diluted to lower dimer concentrations an hour after initiation had fewer intermediates that persisted after the 2 day incubation and had a higher ratio of T = 4 to T = 3 capsids. These reactions indicate that labile T = 4 intermediates are formed rapidly, and dependent on conditions, intermediates may be trapped as metastable species or progress to yield complete capsids.
Project description:Self-assembly of virus capsids is a potential target for antivirals due to its importance in the virus lifecycle. Here, we investigate the effect of phenylpropenamide derivatives B-21 and AT-130 on the assembly of hepatitis B virus (HBV) core protein. Phenylpropenamides are widely believed to yield assembly of spherical particles resembling native, empty HBV capsids. Because the details of assembly can be overlooked with ensemble measurements, we performed resistive-pulse sensing on nanofluidic devices with four pores in series to characterize the size distributions of the products in real time. With its single particle sensitivity and compatibility with typical assembly buffers, resistive-pulse sensing is well-suited for analyzing virus assembly in vitro. We observed that assembly with B-21 and AT-130 produced a large fraction of partially complete virus particles that may be on-path, off-path, or trapped. For both B-21 and AT-130, capsid assembly was more sensitive to disruption under conditions where the interprotein association energy was low at lower salt concentrations. Dilution of the reaction solutions led to the rearrangement of the incomplete particles and demonstrated that these large intermediates may be on-path, but are labile, and exist in a frustrated dynamic equilibrium. During capsid assembly, phenylpropenamide molecules modestly increase the association energy of dimers, prevent intermediates from dissociating, and lead to kinetic trapping where the formation of too many capsids has been initiated, which results in both empty and incomplete particles.
Project description:Disruption of virus capsid assembly has compelling antiviral potential that has been applied to hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV core protein assembly can be modulated by heteroaryldihydropyrimidines (HAPs), and such molecules are collectively termed core protein allosteric modulators (CpAMs). Although the antiviral effects of CpAMs are acknowledged, the mechanism of action remains an open question. Challenging aspects of characterizing misdirected assembly are the large size and nonuniform nature of the final particles. In this study of HBV assembly, we observed a competition between normative and CpAM-induced aberrant assembly with electron microscopy and resistive-pulse sensing on nanofluidic devices. This competition was a function of the strength of the association energy between individual core proteins, which is proportional to ionic strength. At strong association energy, assembly reactions primarily yielded morphologically normal HBV capsids, despite the presence of HAP-TAMRA. At weak association energy, HAP-TAMRA led to increased assembly product size and disrupted morphology. The smallest particles were T = 4 icosahedra, whereas the larger particles were defective spheres, ellipsoids, and bacilliform cylinders, with regions of T = 4 geometry interspersed with flat regions. Deviation from spherical geometry progressively increased with particle size, which is consistent with the interpretation of a competition between two alternative assembly pathways.
Project description:To improve the precision of resistive-pulse measurements, we have used a focused ion beam instrument to mill nanofluidic devices with 2, 4, and 8 pores in series and compared their performance. The in-plane design facilitates the fabrication of multiple pores in series which, in turn, permits averaging of the series of pulses generated from each translocation event. The standard deviations (?) of the pulse amplitude distributions decrease by 2.7-fold when the average amplitudes of eight pulses are compared to the amplitudes of single pulses. Similarly, standard deviations of the pore-to-pore time distributions decrease by 3.2-fold when the averages of the seven measurements from 8-pore devices are contrasted to single measurements from 2-pore devices. With signal averaging, the inherent uncertainty in the measurements decreases; consequently, the resolution (mean/?) improves by a factor equal to the square root of the number of measurements. We took advantage of the improved size resolution of the 8-pore devices to analyze in real time the assembly of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) capsids below the pseudocritical concentration. We observe that abundances of assembly intermediates change over time. During the first hour of the reaction, the abundance of smaller intermediates decreased, whereas the abundance of larger intermediates with sizes closer to a T = 4 capsid remained constant.
Project description:Virus assembly is a coordinated process in which typically hundreds of subunits react to form complex, symmetric particles. We use resistive-pulse sensing to characterize the assembly of hepatitis B virus core protein dimers into T = 3 and T = 4 icosahedral capsids. This technique counts and sizes intermediates and capsids in real time, with single-particle sensitivity, and at biologically relevant concentrations. Other methods are not able to produce comparable real-time, single-particle observations of assembly reactions below, near, and above the pseudocritical dimer concentration, at which the dimer and capsid concentrations are approximately equal. Assembly reactions across a range of dimer concentrations reveal three distinct patterns. At dimer concentrations as low as 50 nM, well below the pseudocritical dimer concentration of 0.5 ?M, we observe a switch in the ratio of T = 3 to T = 4 capsids, which increases with decreasing dimer concentration. Far above the pseudocritical dimer concentration, kinetically trapped, incomplete T = 4 particles assemble rapidly, then slowly anneal into T = 4 capsids. At all dimer concentrations tested, T = 3 capsids form more rapidly than T = 4 capsids, suggesting distinct pathways for the two forms.
Project description:The genetic material of viruses is protected by protein shells that are assembled from a large number of subunits in a process that is efficient and robust. Many of the mechanistic details underpinning efficient assembly of virus capsids are still unknown. The assembly mechanism of hepatitis B capsids has been intensively researched using a truncated core protein lacking the C-terminal domain responsible for binding genomic RNA. To resolve the assembly intermediates of hepatitis B virus (HBV), we studied the formation of nucleocapsids and empty capsids from full-length hepatitis B core proteins, using time-resolved small-angle X-ray scattering. We developed a detailed structural model of the HBV capsid assembly process using a combination of analysis with multivariate curve resolution, structural modeling, and Bayesian ensemble inference. The detailed structural analysis supports an assembly pathway that proceeds through the formation of two highly populated intermediates, a trimer of dimers and a partially closed shell consisting of around 40 dimers. These intermediates are on-path, transient and efficiently convert into fully formed capsids. In the presence of an RNA oligo that binds specifically to the C-terminal domain the assembly proceeds via a similar mechanism to that in the absence of nucleic acids. Comparisons between truncated and full-length HBV capsid proteins reveal that the unstructured C-terminal domain has a significant impact on the assembly process and is required to obtain a more complete mechanistic understanding of HBV capsid formation. These results also illustrate how combining scattering information from different time-points during time-resolved experiments can be utilized to derive a structural model of protein self-assembly pathways.
Project description:Electrophoretic mobilities and particle sizes of individual Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) capsids were measured in nanofluidic channels with two nanopores in series. The channels and pores had three-dimensional topography and were milled directly in glass substrates with a focused ion beam instrument assisted by an electron flood gun. The nanochannel between the two pores was 300 nm wide, 100 nm deep, and 2.5 μm long, and the nanopores at each end had dimensions 45 nm wide, 45 nm deep, and 400 nm long. With resistive-pulse sensing, the nanopores fully resolved pulse amplitude distributions of T = 3 HBV capsids (32 nm outer diameter) and T = 4 HBV capsids (35 nm outer diameter) and had sufficient peak capacity to discriminate intermediate species from the T = 3 and T = 4 capsid distributions in an assembly reaction. Because the T = 3 and T = 4 capsids have a wiffle-ball geometry with a hollow core, the observed change in current due to the capsid transiting the nanopore is proportional to the volume of electrolyte displaced by the volume of capsid protein, not the volume of the entire capsid. Both the signal-to-noise ratio of the pulse amplitude and resolution between the T = 3 and T = 4 distributions of the pulse amplitudes increase as the electric field strength is increased. At low field strengths, transport of the larger T = 4 capsid through the nanopores is hindered relative to the smaller T = 3 capsid due to interaction with the pores, but at sufficiently high field strengths, the T = 3 and T = 4 capsids had the same electrophoretic mobilities (7.4 × 10(-5) cm(2) V(-1) s(-1)) in the nanopores and in the nanochannel with the larger cross-sectional area.
Project description:We report characterization of hepatitis B virus (HBV) capsids by resistive-pulse sensing through single track-etched conical nanopores formed in poly(ethylene terephthalate) membranes. The pores were ?40 nm in diameter at the tip, and the pore surface was covalently modified with triethylene glycol to reduce surface charge density, minimize adsorption of the virus capsids, and suppress electroosmotic flow in the pore. The HBV capsids were assembled in vitro from Cp149, the assembly domain of HBV capsid protein. Assembled T = 3 (90 Cp149 dimer) and T = 4 (120 dimer) capsids are 31 and 36 nm in diameter, respectively, and were easily discriminated by monitoring the change in current as capsids passed through an electrically biased pore. The ratio of the number of T = 3 to T = 4 capsids transiting a pore did not reflect actual concentrations, but favored transport of smaller T = 3 capsids. These results combined with longer transit times for the T = 4 capsids indicated that the capsids must overcome an entropic barrier to enter a pore.
Project description:Defining mechanisms of direct-acting antivirals facilitates drug development and our understanding of virus function. Heteroaryldihydropyrimidines (HAPs) inappropriately activate assembly of hepatitis B virus (HBV) core protein (Cp), suppressing formation of virions. We examined a fluorophore-labeled HAP, HAP-TAMRA. HAP-TAMRA induced Cp assembly and also bound pre-assembled capsids. Kinetic and spectroscopic studies imply that HAP-binding sites are usually not available but are bound cooperatively. Using cryo-EM, we observed that HAP-TAMRA asymmetrically deformed capsids, creating a heterogeneous array of sharp angles, flat regions, and outright breaks. To achieve high resolution reconstruction (<4 Å), we introduced a disulfide crosslink that rescued particle symmetry. We deduced that HAP-TAMRA caused quasi-sixfold vertices to become flatter and fivefold more angular. This transition led to asymmetric faceting. That a disordered crosslink could rescue symmetry implies that capsids have tensegrity properties. Capsid distortion and disruption is a new mechanism by which molecules like the HAPs can block HBV infection.
Project description:Virus capsids are polymeric protein shells that protect the viral cargo. About half of known virus families have icosahedral capsids that self-assemble from tens to thousands of subunits. Capsid disassembly is critical to the lifecycles of many viruses yet is poorly understood. Here, we apply a graph and percolation theory to examine the effect of removing capsid subunits on capsid stability and fragmentation. Based on the structure of the icosahedral capsid of hepatitis B virus (HBV), we constructed a graph of rhombic subunits arranged with icosahedral symmetry. Though our approach neglects dependence on energetics, time, and molecular detail, it quantitatively predicts a percolation phase transition consistent with recent in vitro studies of HBV capsid dissociation. While the stability of the capsid graph followed a gradual quadratic decay, the rhombic tiling abruptly fragmented when we removed more than 25% of the 120 subunits, near the percolation threshold observed experimentally. This threshold may also affect results of capsid assembly, which also experimentally produces a preponderance of 90 mer intermediates, as the intermediate steps in these reactions are reversible and can thus resemble dissociation. Application of percolation theory to understanding capsid association and dissociation may prove a general approach to relating virus biology to the underlying biophysics of the virus particle.
Project description:New experimental approaches are required to detect the elusive transient intermediates predicted by simulations of virus assembly or disassembly. Here, an atomic force microscope (AFM) was used to mechanically induce partial disassembly of single icosahedral T=1 capsids and virions of the minute virus of mice. The kinetic intermediates formed were imaged by AFM. The results revealed that induced disassembly of single minute-virus-of-mice particles is frequently initiated by loss of one of the 20 equivalent capsomers (trimers of capsid protein subunits) leading to a stable, nearly complete particle that does not readily lose further capsomers. With lower frequency, a fairly stable, three-fourths-complete capsid lacking one pentamer of capsomers and a free, stable pentamer were obtained. The intermediates most frequently identified (capsids missing one capsomer, capsids missing one pentamer of capsomers, and free pentamers of capsomers) had been predicted in theoretical studies of reversible capsid assembly based on thermodynamic-kinetic models, molecular dynamics, or oligomerization energies. We conclude that mechanical manipulation and imaging of simple virus particles by AFM can be used to experimentally identify kinetic intermediates predicted by simulations of assembly or disassembly.