Ebola virus inclusion body formation and RNA synthesis are controlled by a novel domain of NP interacting with VP35
Ebola virus (EBOV) inclusion bodies (IBs) are cytoplasmic sites of nucleocapsid formation and RNA replication, housing key steps in the virus life cycle that warrant further investigation. During infection IBs display dynamic properties regarding their size and location. Also, the contents of IBs must transition prior to further viral maturation, assembly and release, implying additional steps in IB function. Interestingly, expression of the viral nucleoprotein (NP) alone is sufficient for generation of IBs, indicating that it plays an important role in IB formation during infection. In addition to NP, other components of the nucleocapsid localize to IBs, including VP35, VP24, VP30 and the RNA polymerase L. Previously we defined and solved the crystal structure of the C-terminal domain of NP (NP-Ct), but its role in virus replication remained unclear. Here we show that NP-Ct is necessary for IB formation when NP is expressed alone. Interestingly, we find that NP-Ct is also required for production of infectious virus-like particles, and that defective VLPs with NP-Ct deletions are significantly reduced in viral RNA content. Furthermore, co-expression of the nucleocapsid component VP35 overcomes deletion of NP-Ct in triggering IB formation, demonstrating a functional interaction between the two proteins. Of all the EBOV proteins only VP35 is able t3o overcome the defect in IB formation caused by deletion of NP-Ct. This effect is mediated by a novel protein-protein interaction between VP35 and NP that controls both regulation of IB formation and RNA replication itself, and which is mediated by a newly identified functional domain of NP, the “central domain” (CD).
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