Following the infection of cells with positive strand RNA viruses dramatic rearrangements of intracellular membranes can be observed which are generally double membrane vesicles (DMV) and convoluted membranes (CMs) attached to a cellular membrane. These structures contain viral dsRNA intermediates and thus prevent pattern recognition receptors from recognizing dsRNA and thus prevent the induction of an antiviral response. In addition, DMVs sequester viral and cellular enzymes necessary for viral replication as well as providing a scaffold for viral particle assembly and/or means for the newly synthesized viral RNA to enter the cytoplasm.
Coronaviridae are no exception. In the case of two prototype Coronaviridae, the murine Coronavirus (Mouse Hepatitis Virus, MHV) and human SARS-associated Coronavirus, SARS-CoV, these replication-transcription complexes (RTCs) -another terminology for DMV- consist of the non-structural proteins (nsp) required for RNA synthesis, RNA-dependent RNA Polymerase (RdRp/nsp12), as well as the membrane spanning nsp3, 4, and 6 proteins, although nsp3 and 4 are sufficient for inducing the DMVs and the formation of DMVs is not dependent on active RNA synthesis.
contains the enzymatic activity for RNA synthesis, the remaining nsps anchor
the DMV to the ER membrane. In this context it is interesting to note that most
fusion proteins of these nsps derived from MHV or SARS-CoV do not retain the
ability of nsp3 and 4 to anchor DMVs to the ER and with the exception of nsps 2
and 6 fail to recruit nsps required for viral replication such as the viral RNA
Helicase. The notable exception are fusion proteins in which the large luminal
loop between the first and second transmembrane domain of nsp4 derives from the
same species as the nsp3, a notion which was confirmed by truncation analysis
of nsp4, whereas the luminal loop of nsp3 may have a stabilizing function and
be involved in recruitment larger nsps via nsp6.
|Non structural proteins involved in Coronavirus replication are encoded within the PP1ab|
|Localisation of nsp3, nsp4 and nsp4 of MHV and SARS-CoV|
In both SARS-CoV and MHV infected cells, dsRNA intermediates -and thus active viral RNA synthesis- co-localising with RdRp/nsp12 with are localized in the interior of the DMV at early timepoints post infection. As the infection progresses however the co-localisation of dsRNA and newly synthesized viral RNA becomes less apparent suggesting that viral RNA transcription ceases. In the case of MHV, it has been demonstrated that the RTCs translocate to the assembly site of new viral particles at 8-16 h p.i. thus obliviating the need of active RNA transcription. At this timepoint the DMVs are not only devoid of dsRNA but also of RNA helicases.
Replication structures of Arteriviridae: similarities to Coronaviridae
Similar to the Coronaviridae, following infection of cells with Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV) or Equine Arterivirus (EAV) -two of the most commonly studied Arteriviridae- the replicative proteins (with the notable exception of nsp1 and nsp2TF) are assembled in virus induced membrane structures consisting of modified intracellular membranes in the perinuclear region of the infected cell. As it is the case for Coronavirus infected cells, these DMVs are associated with viral replication and transcription and thus contain viral proteins and dsRNA intermediates as well as viral positive and negative sense ssRNA. In the case of the Arteriviridae, the scaffold of the RTCs seems to consist of the putative membrane spanning proteins nsp2, nsp3 and nsp5; similar to the Coronaviridae, these are expressed as part of the orf1a gene which is processed by autoprocessing using viral proteases. In addition, both the nsp2 and nsp3 are sufficient to induce the formation of DMVs (as is the case for the Coronavirus nsp3 and 4) and DMVs can form structures of modified ER which are interconnected by their outer membrane as revealed in tomographic studies. Although host proteins implicated in the initiation of arteriviral RNA synthesis binding either to the 3’ end of the genome or the anti-genome of PRRSV or EAV have been postulated to localize to DMVs in the addition of viral proteins the precise composition of these has not been identified.
|Hypothetical model of how Arteri- and Coronavirus nsps induce the formation of LC3-I and LC3-II positive particles by stimulating autophagy|
As in the case of MERS-CoV and other members of the Coronaviridae, the replication of EAV and PRRSV is sensitive to inhibitors from members of the Cyclophilin family, probably Cyclophilin A. Furthermore, similar to IBV and other Coronaviruses, microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) and ER degradation-enhancing α-mannosidase-like1 (EDEM1) proteins associate with DMVs at 16 h p.i. (in the case of MHV) and the depletion of LC3 reduces EAV replication. These results suggest that in both Coronavirus and Arterivirus infected cells autophagy may play a role late in infection similar to Rotavirus infected cells. So far it remains to be seen which viral protein -or combination of of viral proteins- is responsible for the recruitment of the components of the autophagy pathway and to which extent autophagy inhibitors are preventing the spread of viral particles and CPE. In the opinion of the author, the most likely pathway inducing the recruitment of LC3 to DMVs is by inducing ER stress by inhibition of mTOR via the arteriviral nsp2 and 3 (and Coronavirus nsp3 and 4) proteins - in other words the question which remains to be answered is, if the formation of DMVs and the induction of autophagosome like structures influence viral assembly and if the stabilization of these structures has any effect. Also it remains to be seen if the recruitment of ER chaperones such as EDEM1 by the murine Coronavirus and EAV is required for the correct folding of viral proteins. In this context it is important to note that viral replication itself does not require the presence of autophagy related protein (ATG) 7 and thus the lipidiated form of LC3 (LC3II). It would be of interest to investigate if in ATG7 depleted cells infected with EAV, SARS-CoV or MHV, EDEM1 is stabilized and if the formation of viral particles is affected. Finally, is the recruitment of EDEM1 necessary for the detection and degradation of viral glycoproteins such as the Coronavirus S protein that are misfolded akin to the cellular unfold protein response ? Furthermore, it might be possible that RTC are predominating LC3-II positive whereas the assembly particles containing the coronaviral S, E, M and N proteins as well as EDEM1 are predominantly LC3-I.
The application of Cyclophilin A therefore might lead to an increase in misfolded viral and cellular proteins that are recognised by EDEM1 and degraded in autophagosomes. If the infection of cells with Corona-or Arteriviridae interferes with the ability of cells to respond to aggregated misfolded proteins, this might explain why MERS-CoV infected cells are sensitive to Cyclosporin A. Who is up to the challenge?
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