Several mammarenaviruses can cause deadly hemorrhagic fever infections in humans, with limited preventative and therapeutic measures available. Arenavirus cell entry is mediated by the viral glycoprotein (GP) complex, which consists of the stable signal peptide (SSP), the receptor-binding subunit GP1, and the transmembrane subunit GP2. The GP2 cytoplasmic tail (CT) is relatively conserved among arenaviruses and is known to interact with the SSP to regulate GP processing and membrane fusion, but its biological role in the context of an infectious virus has not been fully characterized. Using a Pichinde virus (PICV) GP expression vector and a PICV reverse genetics system, we systematically characterized the functional roles of 12 conserved residues within the GP2 CT in GP processing, trafficking, assembly, and fusion, as well as in viral replication. Except for P478A and K505A R508A, alanine substitutions at conserved residues abolished GP processing and membrane fusion in plasmid-transfected cells. Six invariant H and C residues and W503 are essential for viral replication, as evidenced by the fact that their mutant viruses could not be rescued. Both P480A and R482A mutant viruses were rescued, grew similarly to wildtype (WT) virus, and produced evidently processed GP1 and GP2 subunits in virusinfected cells, despite the fact that the same mutations abolished GP processing and membrane fusion in a plasmid-based protein expression system, illustrating the importance of using an infectious-virus system for analyzing viral glycoprotein function. In summary, our results demonstrate an essential biological role of the GP2 CT in arenavirus replication and suggest it as a potential novel target for developing antivirals and/or attenuated viral vaccine candidates. IMPORTANCE Several arenaviruses, such as Lassa virus (LASV), can cause severe and lethal hemorrhagic fever diseases with high mortality and morbidity, for which no FDA-approved vaccines or therapeutics are available. Viral entry is mediated by the arenavirus GP complex, which consists of the stable signal peptide (SSP), the receptor-binding subunit GP1, and the transmembrane subunit GP2. The cytoplasmic tail (CT) of GP2 is highly conserved among arenaviruses, but its functional role in viral replication is not completely understood. Using a reverse genetics system of a prototypic arenavirus, Pichinde virus (PICV), we show that the GP2 CT contains certain conserved residues that are essential for virus replication, implicating it as a potentially good target for developing antivirals and live-attenuated viral vaccines against deadly arenavirus pathogens.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank K. Conzelmann (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Germany) for the BSRT7-5 cells. This work was supported by NIH R01 grants AI083409 (to Y.L.), AI093580 (to H.L.),
and AI131586 (to Y.L. and H.L.). M.B. was supported in part by NIH predoctoral fellowship T32 DA007097.
© 2019 American Society for Microbiology.
- Envelope glycoprotein
- Lassa virus
- Pichinde virus
- Protein processing
- Viral replication