Two Conserved Amino Acids within the NSs of Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Phlebovirus Are Essential for Anti-interferon Activity.
ABSTRACT: The nonstructural protein (NSs) of severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome phlebovirus (SFTSV) sequesters TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1) into NSs-induced cytoplasmic structures to inhibit the phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of interferon (IFN) regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) and subsequent interferon beta (IFN-?) production. Although the C-terminal region of SFTSV NSs (NSs66-249) has been linked to the formation of NSs-induced cytoplasmic structures and inhibition of host IFN-? responses, the role of the N-terminal region in antagonizing host antiviral responses remains to be defined. Here, we demonstrate that two conserved amino acids at positions 21 and 23 in the SFTSV and heartland virus (HRTV) NSs are essential for suppression of IRF3 phosphorylation and IFN-? mRNA expression following infection with SFTSV or recombinant influenza virus lacking the NS1 gene. Surprisingly, formation of SFTSV/HRTV NSs-induced cytoplasmic structures is not essential for inhibition of host antiviral responses. Rather, an association between SFTSV/HRTV NSs and TBK1 is required for suppression of mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS)-mediated activation of IFN-? promoter activity. Although SFTSV NSs did not prevent the ubiquitination of TBK1, it associates with TBK1 through its N-terminal kinase domain (residues 1 to 307) to block the autophosphorylation of TBK1. Furthermore, we found that both wild-type NSs and the 21/23A mutant (NSs in which residues at positions 21 and 23 were replaced with alanine) of SFTSV suppressed NLRP3 inflammasome-dependent interleukin-1? (IL-1?) secretion, suggesting that the importance of these residues is restricted to TBK1-dependent IFN signaling. Together, our findings strongly implicate the two conserved amino acids at positions 21 and 23 of SFTSV/HRTV NSs in the inhibition of host interferon responses.IMPORTANCE Recognition of viruses by host innate immune systems plays a critical role not only in providing resistance to viral infection but also in the initiation of antigen-specific adaptive immune responses against viruses. Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) is a newly emerging infectious disease caused by the SFTS phlebovirus (SFTSV), a highly pathogenic tick-borne phlebovirus. The 294-amino-acid nonstructural protein (NSs) of SFTSV associates with TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1), a key regulator of host innate antiviral immunity, to inhibit interferon beta (IFN-?) production and enhance viral replication. Here, we demonstrate that two conserved amino acids at positions 21 and 23 in the NSs of SFTSV and heartland virus, another tick-borne phlebovirus, are essential for association with TBK1 and suppression of IFN-? production. Our results provide important insight into the molecular mechanisms by which SFTSV NSs helps to counteract host antiviral strategies.
Project description:Heartland virus (HRTV) is a pathogenic phlebovirus related to the severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV), another phlebovirus causing life-threatening disease in humans. Previous findings have suggested that SFTSV can antagonize the host interferon (IFN) system via viral nonstructural protein (NSs)-mediated sequestration of antiviral signaling proteins into NSs-induced inclusion bodies. However, whether and how HRTV counteracts the host innate immunity is unknown. Here, we report that HRTV NSs (HNSs) also antagonizes IFN and cytokine induction and bolsters viral replication, although no noticeable inclusion body formation was observed in HNSs-expressing cells. Furthermore, HNSs inhibited the virus-triggered activation of IFN-? promoter by specifically targeting the IFN-stimulated response element but not the NF-?B response element. Consistently, HNSs blocked the phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of IFN regulatory factor 3 (IRF3, an IFN-stimulated response element-activating transcription factor). Reporter gene assays next showed that HNSs blockades the antiviral signaling mediated by RIG-I-like receptors likely at the level of TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1). Indeed, HNSs strongly interacts with TBK1 as indicated by confocal microscopy and pulldown analyses, and we also noted that the scaffold dimerization domain of TBK1 is required for the TBK1-HNSs interaction. Finally, pulldown assays demonstrated that HNSs expression dose-dependently diminishes a TBK1-IRF3 interaction, further explaining the mechanism for HNSs function. Collectively, these data suggest that HNSs, an antagonist of host innate immunity, interacts with TBK1 and thereby hinders the association of TBK1 with its substrate IRF3, thus blocking IRF3 activation and transcriptional induction of the cellular antiviral responses.
Project description:In recent years, several newly discovered tick-borne viruses causing a wide spectrum of diseases in humans have been ascribed to the Phlebovirus genus of the Bunyaviridae family. The nonstructural protein (NSs) of bunyaviruses is the main virulence factor and interferon (IFN) antagonist. We studied the molecular mechanisms of IFN antagonism employed by the NSs proteins of human apathogenic Uukuniemi virus (UUKV) and those of Heartland virus (HRTV) and severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV), both of which cause severe disease. Using reporter assays, we found that UUKV NSs weakly inhibited the activation of the beta interferon (IFN-β) promoter and response elements. UUKV NSs weakly antagonized human IFN-β promoter activation through a novel interaction with mitochondrial antiviral-signaling protein (MAVS), confirmed by coimmunoprecipitation and confocal microscopy studies. HRTV NSs efficiently antagonized both IFN-β promoter activation and type I IFN signaling pathways through interactions with TBK1, preventing its phosphorylation. HRTV NSs exhibited diffused cytoplasmic localization. This is in comparison to the inclusion bodies formed by SFTSV NSs. HRTV NSs also efficiently interacted with STAT2 and impaired IFN-β-induced phosphorylation but did not affect STAT1 or its translocation to the nucleus. Our results suggest that a weak interaction between STAT1 and HRTV or SFTSV NSs may explain their inability to block type II IFN signaling efficiently, thus enabling the activation of proinflammatory responses that lead to severe disease. Our findings offer insights into how pathogenicity may be linked to the capacity of NSs proteins to block the innate immune system and illustrate the plethora of viral immune evasion strategies utilized by emerging phleboviruses. IMPORTANCE Since 2011, there has been a large expansion in the number of emerging tick-borne viruses that have been assigned to the Phlebovirus genus. Heartland virus (HRTV) and SFTS virus (SFTSV) were found to cause severe disease in humans, unlike other documented tick-borne phleboviruses such as Uukuniemi virus (UUKV). Phleboviruses encode nonstructural proteins (NSs) that enable them to counteract the human innate antiviral defenses. We assessed how these proteins interacted with the innate immune system. We found that UUKV NSs engaged with innate immune factors only weakly, at one early step. However, the viruses that cause more severe disease efficiently disabled the antiviral response by targeting multiple components at several stages across the innate immune induction and signaling pathways. Our results suggest a correlation between the efficiency of the virus protein/host interaction and severity of disease.
Project description:Heartland virus (HRTV) is a pathogenic phlebovirus recently identified in the United States and related to severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) emerging in Asia. We previously reported that SFTSV disrupts host antiviral responses directed by interferons (IFNs) and their downstream regulators, signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) proteins. However, whether HRTV infection antagonizes the IFN-STAT signaling axis remains unclear. Here, we show that, similar to SFTSV, HRTV also inhibits IFN-?- and IFN-?-mediated antiviral responses. As expected, the nonstructural protein (NSs) of HRTV (HNSs) robustly antagonized both type I and III IFN signaling. Protein interaction analyses revealed that a common component downstream of type I and III IFN signaling, STAT2, is the target of HNSs. Of note, the DNA-binding and linker domains of STAT2 were required for an efficient HNSs-STAT2 interaction. Unlike the NSs of SFTSV (SNSs), which blocks both STAT2 and STAT1 nuclear accumulation, HNSs specifically blocked IFN-triggered nuclear translocation only of STAT2. However, upon HRTV infection, IFN-induced nuclear translocation of both STAT2 and STAT1 was suppressed, suggesting that STAT1 is an additional HRTV target for IFN antagonism. Consistently, despite HNSs inhibiting phosphorylation only of STAT2 and not STAT1, HRTV infection diminished both STAT2 and STAT1 phosphorylation. These results suggest that HRTV antagonizes IFN antiviral signaling by dampening both STAT2 and STAT1 activities. We propose that HNSs-specific targeting of STAT2 likely plays an important role but is not all of the "tactics" of HRTV in its immune evasion.
Project description:Severe fever with thrombocytopenia virus (SFTSV) is an emerging tick-borne phlebovirus that causes lethal human disease, for which there are no licensed antiviral vaccines or therapies. Herein, we developed a live attenuated recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV)-based vaccine candidate expressing the SFTSV Gn/Gc glycoproteins (rVSV-SFTSV/AH12-GP). High titers of cross-protective, broadly neutralizing antibodies were elicited by a single dose of rVSV-SFTSV/AH12-GP in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised mice against multiple strains of SFTSV and the related but distinct phlebovirus Heartland virus (HRTV). Remarkably, complete protection against lethal challenge with SFTSV was conferred in young and old immunocompromised mice irrespective of any pre-existing vector-specific immunity. Collectively, these results suggest that a rVSV vector expressing SFTSV glycoproteins is a promising candidate vaccine against two emerging phleboviruses associated with severe human diseases.
Project description:For antiviral signaling mediated by retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I)-like receptors (RLRs), the recruitment of cytosolic RLRs and downstream molecules (such as TBK1 and IKK?) to mitochondrial platform is a central event that facilitates the establishment of host antiviral state. Here, we present an example of viral targeting for immune evasion through spatial isolation of TBK1/IKK? from mitochondrial antiviral platform, which was employed by severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV), a deadly bunyavirus emerging recently. We showed that SFTSV nonstructural protein NSs functions as the interferon (IFN) antagonist, mainly via suppressing TBK1/IKK?-IRF3 signaling. NSs mediates the formation of cytoplasmic inclusion bodies (IBs), and the blockage of IB formation impairs IFN-inhibiting activity of NSs. We next demonstrate that IBs are utilized to compartmentalize TBK1/IKK?. The compartmentalization results in spatial isolation of the kinases from mitochondria, and deprived TBK1/IKK? may participate in antiviral complex assembly, leading to the blockage of IFN induction. This study proposes a new role of viral IBs as virus-built 'jail' for imprisoning cellular factors and presents a novel and likely common mechanism of viral immune evasion through spatial isolation of critical signaling molecules from the mitochondrial antiviral platform.
Project description:Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) is an emerging infectious disease characterized by high fever, thrombocytopenia, multiorgan dysfunction, and a high fatality rate between 12 and 30%. It is caused by SFTS virus (SFTSV), a novel Phlebovirus in family Bunyaviridae. Although the viral pathogenesis remains largely unknown, hemopoietic cells appear to be targeted by the virus. In this study we report that human monocytes were susceptible to SFTSV, which replicated efficiently, as shown by an immunofluorescence assay and real-time reverse transcription-PCR. We examined host responses in the infected cells and found that antiviral interferon (IFN) and IFN-inducible proteins were induced upon infection. However, our data also indicated that downregulation of key molecules such as mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS) or weakened activation of interferon regulatory factor (IRF) and NF-?B responses may contribute to a restricted innate immunity against the infection. NSs, the nonstructural protein encoded by the S segment, suppressed the beta interferon (IFN-?) and NF-?B promoter activities, although NF-?B activation appears to facilitate SFTSV replication in human monocytes. NSs was found to be associated with TBK1 and may inhibit the activation of downstream IRF and NF-?B signaling through this interaction. Interestingly, we demonstrated that the nucleoprotein (N), also encoded by the S segment, exhibited a suppressive effect on the activation of IFN-? and NF-?B signaling as well. Infected monocytes, mainly intact and free of apoptosis, may likely be implicated in persistent viral infection, spreading the virus to the circulation and causing primary viremia. Our findings provide the first evidence in dissecting the host responses in monocytes and understanding viral pathogenesis in humans infected with a novel deadly Bunyavirus.
Project description:Recognition of viral pathogens by the retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I)-like receptor (RLR) family results in the activation of type I interferon (IFN) responses. To avoid this response, most viruses have evolved strategies that target different essential steps in the activation of host innate immunity. In this study, we report that the nonstructural protein NSs of the newly described severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) is a potent inhibitor of IFN responses. The SFTSV NSs protein was found to inhibit the activation of the beta interferon (IFN-?) promoter induced by viral infection and by a RIG-I ligand. Astonishingly, we found that SFTSV NSs interacts with and relocalizes RIG-I, the E3 ubiquitin ligase TRIM25, and TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1) into SFTSV NSs-induced cytoplasmic structures. Interestingly, formation of these SFTSV NSs-induced structures occurred in the absence of the Atg7 gene, a gene essential for autophagy. Furthermore, confocal microscopy studies revealed that these SFTSV NSs-induced structures colocalize with Rab5 but not with Golgi apparatus or endoplasmic reticulum markers. Altogether, the data suggest that sequestration of RIG-I signaling molecules into endosome-like structures may be the mechanism used by SFTSV to inhibit IFN responses and point toward a novel mechanism for the suppression of IFN responses.The mechanism by which the newly described SFTSV inhibits host antiviral responses has not yet been fully characterized. In this study, we describe the redistribution of RIG-I signaling components into virus-induced cytoplasmic structures in cells infected with SFTSV. This redistribution correlates with the inhibition of host antiviral responses. Further characterization of the interplay between the viral protein and components of the IFN responses could potentially provide targets for the rational development of therapeutic interventions.
Project description:Tick-borne viral diseases have attracted much attention in recent years because of their increasing incidence and threat to human health. Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome phlebovirus (SFTSV) and Heartland virus (HRTV) were recently identified as tick-borne phleboviruses (TBPVs) in Asia and the United States, respectively, and are associated with severe human diseases with similar clinical manifestations. In this study, we report the first identification and isolation of a novel TBPV named Guertu virus (GTV) from Dermacentor nuttalli ticks in Xinjiang Province, China, where TBPVs had not been previously discovered. Genome sequence and phylogenetic analyses showed that GTV is closely related to SFTSV and HRTV and was classified as a member of the genus Phlebovirus, family Phenuiviridae, order Bunyavirales. In vitro and in vivo investigations of the properties of GTV demonstrated that it was able to infect animal and human cell lines and can suppress type I interferon signaling, similar to SFTSV, that GTV nucleoprotein (NP) can rescue SFTSV replication by replacing SFTSV NP, and that GTV infection can cause pathological lesions in mice. Moreover, a serological survey identified antibodies against GTV from serum samples of individuals living in Guertu County, three of which contained neutralizing antibodies, suggesting that GTV can infect humans. Our findings suggested that this virus is a potential pathogen that poses a threat to animals and humans. Further studies and surveillance of GTV are recommended to be carried out in Xinjiang Province as well as in other locations.
Project description:Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) is a tick-borne virus with 12%-30% case mortality rates and is related to the Heartland virus (HRTV) identified in the United States. Together, SFTSV and HRTV are emerging segmented, negative-sense RNA viral (sNSV) pathogens with potential global health impact. Here, we characterize the amino-terminal cap-snatching endonuclease domain of SFTSV polymerase (L) and solve a 2.4-Å X-ray crystal structure. While the overall structure is similar to those of other cap-snatching sNSV endonucleases, differences near the C terminus of the SFTSV endonuclease suggest divergence in regulation. Influenza virus endonuclease inhibitors, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Baloxavir (BXA), inhibit the endonuclease activity in in vitro enzymatic assays and in cell-based studies. BXA displays potent activity with a half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of ?100 nM in enzyme inhibition and an EC50 value of ?250 nM against SFTSV and HRTV in plaque assays. Together, our data support sNSV endonucleases as an antiviral target.
Project description:The severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS), caused by a novel Phlebovirus in the Bunyaviridae family named SFTS virus (SFTSV), is an emerging hemorrhagic fever with a wide distribution and high case-fatality rate. Neither effective treatment nor vaccines are available to treat and prevent this disease to date. It was recently reported that SFTSV nonstructural protein in S segment (SFTSV/NSs) functioned as the interferon (IFN) antagonist targeting for suppressing host's innate immunity. This study was designed to investigate the potential of recombinant SFTSV (rSFTSV)/NSs protein for inducing anti-NSs antibodies by pre-exposure vaccination to block SFTSV/NSs in the SFTSV-infected C57BL/6J mice. All mice in the rSFTSV/NSs-vaccinated group, negative control group, and blank control group survived with no visible clinical abnormities throughout the experiment, except for their sacrifice for sampling at each observation point. However, unexpectedly, a negative effect on the bodyweight of rSFTSV/NSs-vaccinated mice was observed after 21 days postinoculation. Pre-exposure vaccination with rSFTSV/NSs did not accelerate virus removal in mice though high titer of anti-NSs antibodies and elevated IFN-? were detected in sera. Before virus challenge, the rSFTSV/NSs-vaccinated mice and negative control mice had a larger amount of platelets (PLT) than the blank control mice, which indicated that Freund's adjuvants could stimulate PLT production. In the aspect of cytokines, the rSFTSV/NSs-vaccinated mice had a 5- to 10-fold increase in interleukin (IL)-2, IL-5, IL-6, IFN-?, and tumor necrosis factor-?, which probably just had a negative effect on the bodyweight of mice. In general, therefore, previous vaccination with rSFTSV/NSs did not accelerate virus clearance in the SFTSV-infected mice.