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A Hyperactive Kunjin Virus NS3 Helicase Mutant Demonstrates Increased Dissemination and Mortality in Mosquitoes.

Du Pont, Kelly E; Sexton, Nicole R; McCullagh, Martin; Ebel, Gregory D; Geiss, Brian J.
J Virol; 94(19)2020 09 15.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32699093
The unwinding of double-stranded RNA intermediates is critical for the replication and packaging of flavivirus RNA genomes. This unwinding activity is achieved by the ATP-dependent nonstructural protein 3 (NS3) helicase. In previous studies, we investigated the mechanism of energy transduction between the ATP and RNA binding pockets using molecular dynamics simulations and enzymatic characterization. Our data corroborated the hypothesis that motif V is a communication hub for this energy transduction. More specifically, mutations T407A and S411A in motif V exhibit a hyperactive helicase phenotype, leading to the regulation of translocation and unwinding during replication. However, the effect of these mutations on viral infection in cell culture and in vivo is not well understood. Here, we investigated the role of motif V in viral replication using West Nile virus (Kunjin subtype) T407A and S411A mutants (T407A and S411A Kunjin, respectively) in cell culture and in vivo We were able to recover S411A Kunjin but unable to recover T407A Kunjin. Our results indicated that S411A Kunjin decreased viral infection and increased cytopathogenicity in cell culture compared to wild-type (WT) Kunjin. Similarly, decreased infection rates in surviving S411A Kunjin-infected Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes were observed, but S411A Kunjin infection resulted in increased mortality compared to WT Kunjin infection. Additionally, S411A Kunjin infection increased viral dissemination and saliva positivity rates in surviving mosquitoes compared to WT Kunjin infection. These data suggest that S411A Kunjin increases viral pathogenesis in mosquitoes. Overall, these data indicate that NS3 motif V may play a role in the pathogenesis, dissemination, and transmission efficiency of Kunjin virus.IMPORTANCE Kunjin and West Nile viruses belong to the arthropod-borne flaviviruses, which can result in severe symptoms, including encephalitis, meningitis, and death. Flaviviruses have expanded into new populations and emerged as novel pathogens repeatedly in recent years, demonstrating that they remain a global threat. Currently, there are no approved antiviral therapeutics against either Kunjin or West Nile viruses. Thus, there is a pressing need for understanding the pathogenesis of these viruses in humans. In this study, we investigated the role of the Kunjin virus helicase on infection in cell culture and in vivo This work provides new insight into how flaviviruses control pathogenesis and mosquito transmission through the nonstructural protein 3 helicase.