Determination of critical requirements for classical swine fever virus NS2-3-independent virion formation

D. Dubrau, S. Schwindt, O. Klemens, H. Bischoff, N. Tautz*

*Corresponding author for this work
2 Citations (Scopus)


For members of the Flaviviridae, it is known that, besides the structural proteins, nonstructural (NS) proteins also play a critical role in virion formation. Pestiviruses, such as bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), rely on uncleaved NS2-3 for virion formation, while its cleavage product, NS3, is selectively active in RNA replication. This dogma was recently challenged by the selection of gain-of-function mutations in NS2 and NS3 which allowed virion formation in the absence of uncleaved NS2-3 in BVDV type 1 (BVDV-1) variants encoding either a ubiquitin (Ubi) (NS2-Ubi-NS3) or an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) (NS2-IRES-NS3) between NS2 and NS3. To determine whether the ability to adapt to NS2-3-independent virion morphogenesis is conserved among pestiviruses, we studied the corresponding NS2 and NS3 mutations (2/T444-V and 3/M132-A) in classical swine fever virus (CSFV). We observed that these mutations were capable of restoring low-level NS2-3-independent virion formation only for CSFV NS2-Ubi-NS3. Interestingly, a second NS2 mutation (V439-D), identified by selection, was essential for high-titer virion production. Similar to previous findings for BVDV-1, these mutations in NS2 and NS3 allowed for low-titer virion production only in CSFV NS2-IRESNS3. For efficient virion morphogenesis, additional exchanges in NS4A (A48-T) and NS5B (D280-G) were required, indicating that these proteins cooperate in NS2-3-independent virion formation. Interestingly, both NS5B mutations, selected independently for NS2-IRES-NS3 variants of BVDV-1 and CSFV, are located in the fingertip region of the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, classifying this structural element as a novel determinant for pestiviral NS2-3-independent virion formation. Together, these findings will stimulate further mechanistic studies on the genome packaging of pestiviruses. IMPORTANCE For Flaviviridae members, the nonstructural proteins are essential for virion formation and thus exert a dual role in RNA replication and virion morphogenesis. However, it remains unclear how these proteins are functionalized for either process. In wild-type pestiviruses, the NS3/4A complex is selectively active in RNA replication, while NS2-3/4A is essential for virion formation. Mutations recently identified in BVDV-1 rendered NS3/4A capable of supporting NS2-3-independent virion morphogenesis. A comparison of NS3/4A complexes incapable/capable of supporting virion morphogenesis revealed that changes in NS3/NS4A surface interactions are decisive for the gain of function. However, so far, the role of the NS2 mutations as well as the accessory mutations additionally required in the NS2-IRES-NS3 virus variant has not been clarified. To unravel the course of genome packaging, the additional sets of mutations obtained for a second pestivirus species (CSFV) are of significant importance to develop mechanistic models for this complex process.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00679-19
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 01.09.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


Dive into the research topics of 'Determination of critical requirements for classical swine fever virus NS2-3-independent virion formation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this