Herpes Simplex Virus-1 ICP27 Nuclear Export Signal Mutants Exhibit Cell Type-Dependent Deficits in Replication and ICP4 Expression
Herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) protein ICP27 is an essential immediate early (IE) protein that promotes the expression of viral early (E) and late (L) genes via multiple mechanisms. Our understanding of this complex regulatory protein has been greatly enhanced by the characterization of HSV-1 mutants bearing engineered alterations in the ICP27 gene. However, much of this analysis has been performed in interferon-deficient Vero monkey cells. Here, we assessed the replication of a panel of ICP27 mutants in several other cell types. Our analysis shows that mutants lacking ICP27's amino (N)-terminal nuclear export signal (NES) display a striking cell type-dependent growth phenotype, i.e., they grow semi-permissively in Vero and some other cells but are tightly blocked for replication in primary human fibroblasts and multiple human cell lines. This tight growth defect correlates with a failure of these mutants to replicate viral DNA. We also report that HSV-1 NES mutants are deficient in expressing the IE protein ICP4 at early times postinfection. Analysis of viral RNA levels suggests that this phenotype is due, at least in part, to a defect in the export of ICP4 mRNA to the cytoplasm. In combination, our results (i) show that ICP27's NES is critically important for HSV-1 replication in many human cells, and (ii) suggest that ICP27 plays a heretofore unappreciated role in the expression of ICP4. IMPORTANCE HSV-1 IE proteins drive productive HSV-1 replication. The major paradigm of IE gene induction, developed over many years, involves the parallel activation of the five IE genes by the viral tegument protein VP16, which recruits the host RNA polymerase II (RNAP II) to the IE gene promoters. Here, we provide evidence that ICP27 can enhance ICP4 expression early in infection. Because ICP4 is required for transcription of viral E and L genes, this finding may be relevant to understanding how HSV-1 enters and exits the latent state in neurons.
Novel viral splicing events and open reading frames revealed by long-read direct RNA sequencing of adenovirus transcripts
Adenovirus is a common human pathogen that relies on host cell processes for transcription and processing of viral RNA and protein production. Although adenoviral promoters, splice junctions, and polyadenylation sites have been characterized using low-throughput biochemical techniques or short read cDNA-based sequencing, these technologies do not fully capture the complexity of the adenoviral transcriptome. By combining Illumina short-read and nanopore long-read direct RNA sequencing approaches, we mapped transcription start sites and RNA cleavage and polyadenylation sites across the adenovirus genome. In addition to confirming the known canonical viral early and late RNA cassettes, our analysis of splice junctions within long RNA reads revealed an additional 35 novel viral transcripts that meet stringent criteria for expression. These RNAs include fourteen new splice junctions which lead to expression of canonical open reading frames (ORFs), six novel ORF-containing transcripts, and 15 transcripts encoding for messages that could alter protein functions through truncation or fusion of canonical ORFs. In addition, we detect RNAs that bypass canonical cleavage sites and generate potential chimeric proteins by linking distinct gene transcription units. Among these chimeric proteins we detected an evolutionarily conserved protein containing the N-terminus of E4orf6 fused to the downstream DBP/E2A ORF. Loss of this novel protein, E4orf6/DBP, was associated with aberrant viral replication center morphology and poor viral spread. Our work highlights how long-read sequencing technologies combined with mass spectrometry can reveal further complexity within viral transcriptomes and resulting proteomes.
DLK-Dependent Biphasic Reactivation of Herpes Simplex Virus Latency Established in the Absence of Antivirals
Understanding the molecular mechanisms of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) latent infection and reactivation in neurons requires the use of in vitro model systems. Establishing a quiescent infection in cultured neurons is problematic, as any infectious virus released can superinfect the cultures. Previous studies have used the viral DNA replication inhibitor acyclovir to prevent superinfection and promote latency establishment. Data from these previous models have shown that reactivation is biphasic, with an initial phase I expression of all classes of lytic genes, which occurs independently of histone demethylase activity and viral DNA replication but is dependent on the cell stress protein DLK. Here, we describe a new model system using HSV-1 Stayput-GFP, a reporter virus that is defective for cell-to-cell spread and establishes latent infections without the need for acyclovir. The establishment of a latent state requires a longer time frame than previous models using DNA replication inhibitors. This results in a decreased ability of the virus to reactivate using established inducers, and as such, a combination of reactivation triggers is required. Using this system, we demonstrate that biphasic reactivation occurs even when latency is established in the absence of acyclovir. Importantly, phase I lytic gene expression still occurs in a histone demethylase and viral DNA replication-independent manner and requires DLK activity. These data demonstrate that the two waves of viral gene expression following HSV-1 reactivation are independent of secondary infection and not unique to systems that require acyclovir to promote latency establishment. IMPORTANCE Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) enters a latent infection in neurons and periodically reactivates. Reactivation manifests as a variety of clinical symptoms. Studying latency and reactivation in vitro is invaluable, allowing the molecular mechanisms behind both processes to be targeted by therapeutics that reduce the clinical consequences. Here, we describe a novel in vitro model system using a cell-to-cell spread-defective HSV-1, known as Stayput-GFP, which allows for the study of latency and reactivation at the single neuron level. We anticipate this new model system will be an incredibly valuable tool for studying the establishment and reactivation of HSV-1 latent infection in vitro. Using this model, we find that initial reactivation events are dependent on cellular stress kinase DLK but independent of histone demethylase activity and viral DNA replication. Our data therefore further validate the essential role of DLK in mediating a wave of lytic gene expression unique to reactivation.
Impact of Cultured Neuron Models on Î±-Herpesvirus Latency Research
A signature trait of neurotropic Î±-herpesviruses (Î±-HV) is their ability to establish stable non-productive infections of peripheral neurons termed latency. This specialized gene expression program is the foundation of an evolutionarily successful strategy to ensure lifelong persistence in the host. Various physiological stresses can induce reactivation in a subset of latently-infected neurons allowing a new cycle of viral productive cycle gene expression and synthesis of infectious virus. Recurring reactivation events ensure transmission of the virus to new hosts and contributes to pathogenesis. Efforts to define the molecular basis of Î±-HV latency and reactivation have been notoriously difficult because the neurons harboring latent virus in humans and in experimentally infected live-animal models, are rare and largely inaccessible to study. Increasingly, researchers are turning to cultured neuron infection models as simpler experimental platforms from which to explore latency and reactivation at the molecular level. In this review, I reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of existing neuronal models and briefly summarize the important mechanistic insights these models have provided. I also discuss areas where prioritization will help to ensure continued progress and integration.
DRUMMER-Rapid detection of RNA modifications through comparative nanopore sequencing
MOTIVATION/BACKGROUND:The chemical modification of ribonucleotides regulates the structure, stability, and interactions of RNAs. Profiling of these modifications using short-read (Illumina) sequencing techniques provides high sensitivity but low-to-medium resolution i.e., modifications cannot be assigned to specific transcript isoforms in regions of sequence overlap. An alternative strategy uses current fluctuations in nanopore-based long read direct RNA sequencing (DRS) to infer the location and identity of nucleotides that differ between two experimental conditions. While highly sensitive, these signal-level analyses require high quality transcriptome annotations and thus are best suited to the study of model organisms. By contrast, the detection of RNA modifications in microbial organisms which typically have no or low-quality annotations requires an alternative strategy. Here, we demonstrate that signal fluctuations directly influence error rates during base calling and thus provides an alternative approach for identifying modified nucleotides. RESULTS:DRUMMER (Detection of Ribonucleic acid Modifications Manifested in Error Rates (i) utilizes a range of statistical tests and background noise correction to identify modified nucleotides with high confidence, (ii) operates with similar sensitivity to signal-level analysis approaches, and (iii) correlates very well with orthogonal approaches. Using well-characterized DRS datasets supported by independent meRIP-Seq and miCLIP-Seq datasets we demonstrate that DRUMMER operates with high sensitivity and specificity. AVAILABILITY AND IMPLEMENTATION/METHODS:DRUMMER is written in Python 3 and is available as open source in the GitHub repository: https://github.com/DepledgeLab/DRUMMER. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION/BACKGROUND:Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
HSV-1 immediate early proteins change biophysical properties of the infected cell nucleus [Meeting Abstract]
Control of animal virus replication by RNA adenosine methylation
Methylation at the N6-position of either adenosine (m6A) or 2'-O-methyladenosine (m6Am) represents two of the most abundant internal modifications of coding and non-coding RNAs, influencing their maturation, stability and function. Additionally, although less abundant and less well-studied, monomethylation at the N1-position (m1A) can have profound effects on RNA folding. It has been known for several decades that RNAs produced by both DNA and RNA viruses can be m6A/m6Am modified and the list continues to broaden through advances in detection technologies and identification of the relevant methyltransferases. Recent studies have uncovered varied mechanisms used by viruses to manipulate the m6A pathway in particular, either to enhance virus replication or to antagonize host antiviral defenses. As such, RNA modifications represent an important frontier of exploration in the broader realm of virus-host interactions, and this new knowledge already suggests exciting opportunities for therapeutic intervention. In this review we summarize the principal mechanisms by which m6A/m6Am can promote or hinder viral replication, describe how the pathway is actively manipulated by biomedically important viruses, and highlight some remaining gaps in understanding how adenosine methylation of RNA controls viral replication and pathogenesis.
Single-cell transcriptomics identifies Gadd45b as a regulator of herpesvirus-reactivating neurons
Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) is a powerful technique for dissecting the complexity of normal and diseased tissues, enabling characterization of cell diversity and heterogeneous phenotypic states in unprecedented detail. However, this technology has been underutilized for exploring the interactions between the host cell and viral pathogens in latently infected cells. Herein, we use scRNA-seq and single-molecule sensitivity fluorescent in situ hybridization (smFISH) technologies to investigate host single-cell transcriptome changes upon the reactivation of a human neurotropic virus, herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1). We identify the stress sensor growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible 45 beta (Gadd45b) as a critical antiviral host factor that regulates HSV-1 reactivation events in a subpopulation of latently infected primary neurons. We show that distinct subcellular localization of Gadd45b correlates with the viral late gene expression program, as well as the expression of the viral transcription factor, ICP4. We propose that a hallmark of a "successful" or "aborted" HSV-1 reactivation state in primary neurons is determined by a unique subcellular localization signature of the stress sensor Gadd45b.
Widespread remodeling of the m6A RNA-modification landscape by a viral regulator of RNA processing and export
Targeting the m6A RNA modification pathway blocks SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-OC43 replication
N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is an abundant internal RNA modification, influencing transcript fate and function in uninfected and virus-infected cells. Installation of m6A by the nuclear RNA methyltransferase METTL3 occurs cotranscriptionally; however, the genomes of some cytoplasmic RNA viruses are also m6A-modified. How the cellular m6A modification machinery impacts coronavirus replication, which occurs exclusively in the cytoplasm, is unknown. Here we show that replication of SARS-CoV-2, the agent responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, and a seasonal human Î²-coronavirus HCoV-OC43, can be suppressed by depletion of METTL3 or cytoplasmic m6A reader proteins YTHDF1 and YTHDF3 and by a highly specific small molecule METTL3 inhibitor. Reduction of infectious titer correlates with decreased synthesis of viral RNAs and the essential nucleocapsid (N) protein. Sites of m6A modification on genomic and subgenomic RNAs of both viruses were mapped by methylated RNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (meRIP-seq). Levels of host factors involved in m6A installation, removal, and recognition were unchanged by HCoV-OC43 infection; however, nuclear localization of METTL3 and cytoplasmic m6A readers YTHDF1 and YTHDF2 increased. This establishes that coronavirus RNAs are m6A-modified and host m6A pathway components control Î²-coronavirus replication. Moreover, it illustrates the therapeutic potential of targeting the m6A pathway to restrict coronavirus reproduction.