Dilley KA, Voorhies AA, Luthra P, Puri V, Stockwell TB, Lorenzi H, Basler CF, Shabman RS

The Ebola virus VP35 protein binds viral immunostimulatory and host RNAs identified through deep sequencing.

PloS one. 2017-01-01; 12.6: e0178717.

Ebola virus and Marburg virus are members of the Filovirdae family and causative agents of hemorrhagic fever with high fatality rates in humans. Filovirus virulence is partially attributed to the VP35 protein, a well-characterized inhibitor of the RIG-I-like receptor pathway that triggers the antiviral interferon (IFN) response. Prior work demonstrates the ability of VP35 to block potent RIG-I activators, such as Sendai virus (SeV), and this IFN-antagonist activity is directly correlated with its ability to bind RNA. Several structural studies demonstrate that VP35 binds short synthetic dsRNAs; yet, there are no data that identify viral immunostimulatory RNAs (isRNA) or host RNAs bound to VP35 in cells. Utilizing a SeV infection model, we demonstrate that both viral isRNA and host RNAs are bound to Ebola and Marburg VP35s in cells. By deep sequencing the purified VP35-bound RNA, we identified the SeV copy-back defective interfering (DI) RNA, previously identified as a robust RIG-I activator, as the isRNA bound by multiple filovirus VP35 proteins, including the VP35 protein from the West African outbreak strain (Makona EBOV). Moreover, RNAs isolated from a VP35 RNA-binding mutant were not immunostimulatory and did not include the SeV DI RNA. Strikingly, an analysis of host RNAs bound by wild-type, but not mutant, VP35 revealed that select host RNAs are preferentially bound by VP35 in cell culture. Taken together, these data support a model in which VP35 sequesters isRNA in virus-infected cells to avert RIG-I like receptor (RLR) activation.

PMID: 28636653