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Functional replacement of the carboxy-terminal two-thirds of the influenza A virus NS1 protein with short heterologous dimerization domains.

The NS1 protein of influenza A/WSN/33 virus is a 230-amino-acid-long protein which functions as an interferon alpha/beta (IFN-alpha/beta) antagonist by preventing the synthesis of IFN during viral infection. In tissue culture, the IFN inhibitory function of the NS1 protein has been mapped to the RNA binding domain, the first 73 amino acids. Nevertheless, influenza viruses expressing carboxy-terminally truncated NS1 proteins are attenuated in mice. Dimerization of the NS1 protein has previously been shown to be essential for its RNA binding activity. We have explored the ability of heterologous dimerization domains to functionally substitute in vivo for the carboxy-terminal domains of the NS1 protein. Recombinant influenza viruses were generated that expressed truncated NS1 proteins of 126 amino acids, fused to 28 or 24 amino acids derived from the dimerization domains of either the Saccharomyces cerevisiae PUT3 or the Drosophila melanogaster Ncd (DmNcd) proteins. These viruses regained virulence and lethality in mice. Moreover, a recombinant influenza virus expressing only the first 73 amino acids of the NS1 protein was able to replicate in mice lacking three IFN-regulated antiviral enzymes, PKR, RNaseL, and Mx, but not in wild-type (Mx-deficient) mice, suggesting that the attenuation was mainly due to an inability to inhibit the IFN system. Remarkably, a virus with an NS1 truncated at amino acid 73 but fused to the dimerization domain of DmNcd replicated and was also highly pathogenic in wild-type mice. These results suggest that the main biological function of the carboxy-terminal region of the NS1 protein of influenza A virus is the enhancement of its IFN antagonist properties by stabilizing the NS1 dimeric structure.[1]

References

  1. Functional replacement of the carboxy-terminal two-thirds of the influenza A virus NS1 protein with short heterologous dimerization domains. Wang, X., Basler, C.F., Williams, B.R., Silverman, R.H., Palese, P., García-Sastre, A. J. Virol. (2002) [Pubmed]
 
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