A peculiarity of the Flaviviridae is the critical function of nonstructural (NS) proteins for virus particle formation. For pestiviruses, like bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), uncleaved NS2-3 represents an essential factor for virion morphogenesis, while NS3 is an essential component of the viral replicase. Accordingly, in natural pestivirus isolates, processing at the NS2-3 cleavage site is not complete, to allow for virion morphogenesis. Virion morphogenesis of the related hepatitis C virus (HCV) shows a major deviation from that of pestiviruses: while RNA replication also requires free NS3, virion formation does not depend on uncleaved NS2-NS3. Recently, we described a BVDV-1 chimera based on strain NCP7 encompassing the NS2-4B*-coding region of strain Osloss (E. Lattwein, O. Klemens, S. Schwindt, P. Becher, and N. Tautz, J Virol 86:427-437, 2012, doi:10.1128/JVI.06133-11). This chimera allowed for the production of infectious virus particles in the absence of uncleaved NS2-3. The Osloss sequence deviates in the NS2-4B* part from NCP7 in 48 amino acids and also has a ubiquitin insertion between NS2 and NS3. The present study demonstrates that in the NCP7 backbone, only two amino acid exchanges in NS2 (E1576V) and NS3 (V1721A) are sufficient and necessary to allow for efficient NS2-3-independent virion morphogenesis. The adaptation of a bicistronic virus encompassing an internal ribosomal entry site element between the NS2 and NS3 coding sequences to efficient virion morphogenesis led to the identification of additional amino acids in E2, NS2, and NS5B that are critically involved in this process. The surprisingly small requirements for approximating the packaging schemes of pestiviruses and HCV with respect to the NS2-3 region is in favor of a common mechanism in an ancestral virus.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)