Enveloped viruses need to fuse with a host cell membrane in order to deliver their genome into the host cell. While some viruses fuse with the plasma membrane, many viruses are endocytosed prior to fusion. Specific cues in the endosomal microenvironment induce conformational changes in the viral fusion proteins leading to viral and host membrane fusion. In the present study we investigated the entry of coronaviruses (CoVs). Using siRNA gene silencing, we found that proteins known to be important for late endosomal maturation and endosome-lysosome fusion profoundly promote infection of cells with mouse hepatitis coronavirus (MHV). Using recombinant MHVs expressing reporter genes as well as a novel, replication-independent fusion assay we confirmed the importance of clathrin-mediated endocytosis and demonstrated that trafficking of MHV to lysosomes is required for fusion and productive entry to occur. Nevertheless, MHV was shown to be less sensitive to perturbation of endosomal pH than vesicular stomatitis virus and influenza A virus, which fuse in early and late endosomes, respectively. Our results indicate that entry of MHV depends on proteolytic processing of its fusion protein S by lysosomal proteases. Fusion of MHV was severely inhibited by a pan-lysosomal protease inhibitor, while trafficking of MHV to lysosomes and processing by lysosomal proteases was no longer required when a furin cleavage site was introduced in the S protein immediately upstream of the fusion peptide. Also entry of feline CoV was shown to depend on trafficking to lysosomes and processing by lysosomal proteases. In contrast, MERS-CoV, which contains a minimal furin cleavage site just upstream of the fusion peptide, was negatively affected by inhibition of furin, but not of lysosomal proteases. We conclude that a proteolytic cleavage site in the CoV S protein directly upstream of the fusion peptide is an essential determinant of the intracellular site of fusion.
Strategies to contain the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) depend on knowledge of the rate of human-to-human transmission, including subclinical infections. A lack of serologic tools has hindered targeted studies of transmission.
Dromedary camels are a putative source for human infections with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. We showed that camels sampled in different regions in Kenya during 1992-2013 have antibodies against this virus. High densities of camel populations correlated with increased seropositivity and might be a factor in predicting long-term virus maintenance.
We found serologic evidence for the circulation of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus among dromedary camels in Nigeria, Tunisia, and Ethiopia. Circulation of the virus among dromedaries across broad areas of Africa may indicate that this disease is currently underdiagnosed in humans outside the Arabian Peninsula.
We investigated a case of human infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) after exposure to infected camels. Analysis of the whole human-derived virus and 15% of the camel-derived virus sequence yielded nucleotide polymorphism signatures suggestive of cross-species transmission. Camels may act as a direct source of human MERS-CoV infection.
Isolation of porcine epidemic diarrhea coronavirus (PEDV) from clinical material in cell culture requires supplementation of trypsin. This may relate to the confinement of PEDV natural infection to the protease-rich small intestine of pigs. Our study focused on the role of protease activity on infection by investigating the spike protein of a PEDV isolate (wtPEDV) using a reverse genetics system based on the trypsin-independent cell culture-adapted strain DR13 (caPEDV). We demonstrate that trypsin acts on the wtPEDV spike protein after receptor binding. We mapped the genetic determinant for trypsin-dependent cell entry to the N-terminal region of the fusion subunit of this class I fusion protein, revealing a conserved arginine just upstream of the putative fusion peptide as the potential cleavage site. Whereas coronaviruses are typically processed by endogenous proteases of the producer or target cell, PEDV S protein activation strictly required supplementation of a protease, enabling us to study mechanistic details of proteolytic processing. Importance: Recurring PEDV epidemics constitute a serious animal health threat and an economic burden, particularly in Asia but, as of recently, also on the North-American subcontinent. Understanding the biology of PEDV is critical for combatting the infection. Here, we provide new insight into the protease-dependent cell entry of PEDV.
Rabies is a disease characterized by an invariably lethal encephalitis of viral origin that can be controlled by preventive vaccination programs of wildlife, domestic animals and humans in areas with a high risk of exposure. Currently available vaccines are expensive, cumbersome to produce and require intensive immunization and booster schemes to induce and maintain protective immunity. In the present study, we describe the development of candidate recombinant subunit rabies vaccines based on the glycoprotein G of the prototype rabies virus (RABV-G) expressed either as a monomer (RABV-mG) or in its native trimeric configuration (RABV-tG), with or without Matrix-M™ adjuvant. Immunogenicity and protective efficacy of the respective candidate vaccines were tested in outbred NIH Swiss albino mice. The RABV-tG candidate vaccine proved to be superior to the RABV-mG vaccine candidate both in terms of immunogenicity and efficacy. The relatively poor immunogenicity of the RABV-mG vaccine candidate was greatly improved by the addition of the adjuvant. A single, low dose of RABV-tG in combination with Matrix-M™ induced high levels of high avidity neutralizing antibodies and protected all mice against challenge with a lethal dose of RABV. Consequently RABV-tG used in combination with Matrix-M™ is a promising vaccine candidate that overcomes the limitations of currently used vaccines.
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has caused an ongoing outbreak of severe acute respiratory tract infection in humans in the Arabian Peninsula since 2012. Dromedary camels have been implicated as possible viral reservoirs. We used serologic assays to analyze 651 dromedary camel serum samples from the United Arab Emirates; 151 of 651 samples were obtained in 2003, well before onset of the current epidemic, and 500 serum samples were obtained in 2013. Recombinant spike protein-specific immunofluorescence and virus neutralization tests enabled clear discrimination between MERS-CoV and bovine CoV infections. Most (632/651, 97.1%) camels had antibodies against MERS-CoV. This result included all 151 serum samples obtained in 2003. Most (389/651, 59.8%) serum samples had MERS-CoV-neutralizing antibody titers >1,280. Dromedary camels from the United Arab Emirates were infected at high rates with MERS-CoV or a closely related, probably conspecific, virus long before the first human MERS cases.
Enveloped viruses carry highly specialized glycoproteins that catalyze membrane fusion under strict spatial and temporal control. To prevent premature activation after biosynthesis, viral class I fusion proteins adopt a locked conformation and require proteolytic cleavage to render them fusion-ready. This priming step may occur during virus exit from the infected cell, in the extracellular milieu or during entry at or in the next target cell. Proteolytic processing of coronavirus spike (S) fusion proteins during virus entry has been suggested but not yet formally demonstrated, while the nature and functionality of the resulting subunit is still unclear. We used a prototype coronavirus--mouse hepatitis virus (MHV)--to develop a conditional biotinylation assay that enables the specific identification and biochemical characterization of viral S proteins on virions that mediated membrane fusion with the target cell. We demonstrate that MHV S proteins are indeed cleaved upon virus endocytosis, and we identify a novel processing product S2* with characteristics of a fusion-active subunit. The precise cleavage site and the enzymes involved remain to be elucidated.
Six coronaviruses, including the recently identified Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, are known to target the human respiratory tract causing mild to severe disease. Their interaction with receptors expressed on cells located in the respiratory tract is an essential first step in the infection. Thus far three membrane ectopeptidases, dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4), angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and aminopeptidase N (APN), have been identified as entry receptors for four human-infecting coronaviruses. Although the catalytic activity of the ACE2, APN, and DPP4 peptidases is not required for virus entry, co-expression of other host proteases allows efficient viral entry. In addition, evolutionary conservation of these receptors may permit interspecies transmissions. Because of the physiological function of these peptidase systems, pathogenic host responses may be potentially amplified and cause acute respiratory distress.
Studies of viral entry into host cells often rely on the detection of post-entry parameters, such as viral replication or the expression of a reporter gene, rather than on measuring entry per se. The lack of assays to easily detect the different steps of entry severely hampers the analysis of this key process in virus infection. Here we describe novel, highly adaptable viral entry assays making use of minimal complementation of the E. coli ?-galactosidase in mammalian cells. Enzyme activity is reconstituted when a small intravirion peptide (?-peptide) is complementing the inactive mutant form ?M15 of ?-galactosidase. The method allows to dissect and to independently detect binding, internalization, and fusion of viruses during host cell entry. Here we use it to confirm and extend current knowledge on the entry process of two enveloped viruses: vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and murine hepatitis coronavirus (MHV).
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) replicates in cells of different species using dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4) as a functional receptor. Here we show resistance of ferrets to MERS-CoV infection and inability of ferret DDP4 to bind MERS-CoV. Site-directed mutagenesis of amino acids variable in ferret DPP4 thus revealed the functional human DPP4 virus binding site. Adenosine deaminase (ADA), a DPP4 binding protein, competed for virus binding, acting as a natural antagonist for MERS-CoV infection.
We identified the domains of CD26 involved in the binding of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) using distinct clones of anti-CD26 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). One clone, named 2F9, almost completely inhibited viral entry. The humanized anti-CD26 MAb YS110 also significantly inhibited infection. These findings indicate that both 2F9 and YS110 are potential therapeutic agents for MERS-CoV infection. YS110, in particular, is a good candidate for immediate testing as a therapeutic modality for MERS.
A novel coronavirus, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, recently emerged through zoonotic transmission, causing a severe lower respiratory tract infection in humans. In two recent papers, one published in Cell Research, the crystal structure of the viral receptor-binding domain in complex with the host CD26/dipeptidyl peptidase 4 receptor has now been characterized.
A new betacoronavirus-Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)-has been identified in patients with severe acute respiratory infection. Although related viruses infect bats, molecular clock analyses have been unable to identify direct ancestors of MERS-CoV. Anecdotal exposure histories suggest that patients had been in contact with dromedary camels or goats. We investigated possible animal reservoirs of MERS-CoV by assessing specific serum antibodies in livestock.
The spike (S) protein of the recently emerged human Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) mediates infection by binding to the cellular receptor dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4). Here we mapped the receptor binding domain in the S protein to a 231-amino-acid fragment (residues 358 to 588) by evaluating the interaction of spike truncation variants with receptor-expressing cells and soluble DPP4. Antibodies to this domain--much less so those to the preceding N-terminal region--efficiently neutralize MERS-CoV infection.
Most human coronaviruses cause mild upper respiratory tract disease but may be associated with more severe pulmonary disease in immunocompromised individuals. However, SARS coronavirus caused severe lower respiratory disease with nearly 10% mortality and evidence of systemic spread. Recently, another coronavirus (human coronavirus-Erasmus Medical Center (hCoV-EMC)) was identified in patients with severe and sometimes lethal lower respiratory tract infection. Viral genome analysis revealed close relatedness to coronaviruses found in bats. Here we identify dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4; also known as CD26) as a functional receptor for hCoV-EMC. DPP4 specifically co-purified with the receptor-binding S1 domain of the hCoV-EMC spike protein from lysates of susceptible Huh-7 cells. Antibodies directed against DPP4 inhibited hCoV-EMC infection of primary human bronchial epithelial cells and Huh-7 cells. Expression of human and bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) DPP4 in non-susceptible COS-7 cells enabled infection by hCoV-EMC. The use of the evolutionarily conserved DPP4 protein from different species as a functional receptor provides clues about the host range potential of hCoV-EMC. In addition, it will contribute critically to our understanding of the pathogenesis and epidemiology of this emerging human coronavirus, and may facilitate the development of intervention strategies.
Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) causes severe economic losses in the swine industry in China and other Asian countries. Infection usually leads to an acute, often lethal diarrhea in piglets. Despite the impact of the disease, no system is yet available to manipulate the viral genome which has severely hampered research on this virus until today. We have established a reverse genetics system for PEDV based on targeted RNA recombination that allows the modification of the 3-end of the viral genome, which encodes the structural proteins and the ORF3 protein. Using this system, we deleted the ORF3 gene entirely from the viral genome and showed that the ORF3 protein is not essential for replication of the virus in vitro. In addition, we inserted heterologous genes (i.e. the GFP and Renilla luciferase genes) at two positions in the viral genome, either as an extra expression cassette or as a replacement for the ORF3 gene. We demonstrated the expression of both GFP and Renilla luciferase as well as the application of these viruses by establishing a convenient and rapid virus neutralization assay. The new PEDV reverse genetics system will enable functional studies of the structural proteins and the accessory ORF3 protein and will allow the rational design and development of next generation PEDV vaccines.
Nanosized cell-derived membrane vesicles are increasingly recognized as therapeutic vehicles and high-potential biomarkers for several diseases. Currently available methods allow bulk analysis of vesicles but are not suited for accurate quantification and fail to reveal phenotypic heterogeneity in membrane vesicle populations. For such analyses, single vesicle-based, multiparameter, high-throughput methods are needed. We developed a fluorescence-based, high-resolution flow cytometric method for quantitative and qualitative analysis of nanosized membrane vesicles. Proof of principle was obtained by single-particle analysis of virions and liposomes. Further validation was obtained by quantification of cell-derived nanosized membrane vesicles from cell cultures and body fluids. An important aspect was that the technology was extended to detect specific proteins on individual vesicles. This allowed identification of exosome subsets and phenotyping of individual exosomes produced by dendritic cells (DCs) undergoing different modes of activation. The described technology allows quantitative, multiparameter, and high-throughput analysis of a wide variety of nanosized particles and has broad applications.
The emergence and subsequent swift and global spread of the swine-origin influenza virus A(H1N1) in 2009 once again emphasizes the strong need for effective vaccines that can be developed rapidly and applied safely. With this aim, we produced soluble, multimeric forms of the 2009 A(H1N1) HA (sHA(3)) and NA (sNA(4)) surface glycoproteins using a virus-free mammalian expression system and evaluated their efficacy as vaccines in ferrets. Immunization twice with 3.75-microg doses of these antigens elicited strong antibody responses, which were adjuvant dependent. Interestingly, coadministration of both antigens strongly enhanced the HA-specific but not the NA-specific responses. Distinct patterns of protection were observed upon challenge inoculation with the homologous H1N1 virus. Whereas vaccination with sHA(3) dramatically reduced virus replication (e.g., by lowering pulmonary titers by about 5 log(10) units), immunization with sNA(4) markedly decreased the clinical effects of infection, such as body weight loss and lung pathology. Clearly, optimal protection was achieved by the combination of the two antigens. Our observations demonstrate the great vaccine potential of multimeric HA and NA ectodomains, as these can be easily, rapidly, flexibly, and safely produced in high quantities. In particular, our study underscores the underrated importance of NA in influenza vaccination, which we found to profoundly and specifically contribute to protection by HA. Its inclusion in a vaccine is likely to reduce the HA dose required and to broaden the protective immunity.
In this study we evaluated the receptor-binding properties of recombinant soluble hemagglutinin (HA) trimers (subtype H2 and H7) produced in insect S2 cells, human HEK293T or HEK293S GnTI(-) cells, which produce proteins with paucimannose, complex or high-mannose N-linked glycans, respectively. The results show that HA proteins that only differ in their glycosylation status possess different receptor fine specificities. HEK293T cell-produced HA displayed a very narrow receptor specificity. However, when treated with neuraminidase this HA was able to bind more glycans with similar specificity as HEK293S GnTI(-) cell-produced HA. Insect cell-produced HA demonstrated decreased receptor specificity. As a consequence, differences in HA fine receptor specificities could not be observed with the insect cell-, but were readily detected with the HEK293S GnTI(-) cell-produced HAs.
Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses containing the largest reported RNA genomes. As a result of their pleomorphic nature, our structural insight into the coronavirion is still rudimentary, and it is based mainly on 2D electron microscopy. Here we report the 3D virion structure of coronaviruses obtained by cryo-electron tomography. Our study focused primarily on the coronavirus prototype murine hepatitis virus (MHV). MHV particles have a distinctly spherical shape and a relatively homogenous size ( approximately 85 nm envelope diameter). The viral envelope exhibits an unusual thickness (7.8 +/- 0.7 nm), almost twice that of a typical biological membrane. Focal pairs revealed the existence of an extra internal layer, most likely formed by the C-terminal domains of the major envelope protein M. In the interior of the particles, coiled structures and tubular shapes are observed, consistent with a helical nucleocapsid model. Our reconstructions provide no evidence of a shelled core. Instead, the ribonucleoprotein seems to be extensively folded onto itself, assuming a compact structure that tends to closely follow the envelope at a distance of approximately 4 nm. Focal contact points and thread-like densities connecting the envelope and the ribonucleoprotein are revealed in the tomograms. Transmissible gastroenteritis coronavirion tomograms confirm all the general features and global architecture observed for MHV. We propose a general model for the structure of the coronavirion in which our own and published observations are combined.
The human coronavirus NL63 is generally classified as a common cold pathogen, though the infection may also result in severe lower respiratory tract diseases, especially in children, patients with underlying disease, and elderly. It has been previously shown that HCoV-NL63 is also one of the most important causes of croup in children. In the current manuscript we developed a set of polymer-based compounds showing prominent anticoronaviral activity. Polymers have been recently considered as promising alternatives to small molecule inhibitors, due to their intrinsic antimicrobial properties and ability to serve as matrices for antimicrobial compounds. Most of the antimicrobial polymers show antibacterial properties, while those with antiviral activity are much less frequent. A cationically modified chitosan derivative, N-(2-hydroxypropyl)-3-trimethylammonium chitosan chloride (HTCC), and hydrophobically-modified HTCC were shown to be potent inhibitors of HCoV-NL63 replication. Furthermore, both compounds showed prominent activity against murine hepatitis virus, suggesting broader anticoronaviral activity.
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