Caliciviruses are single-stranded RNA viruses with 180 copies of capsid protein comprising the T=3 icosahedral capsids. The main capsid feature is a pronounced protruding (P) domain dimer formed by adjacent subunits on the icosahedral surface while the shell domain forms a tight icosahedral sphere around the genome. While the P domain in the crystal structure of human Norwalk virus (genotype I.1) was tightly associated with the shell surface, the cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structures of several members of the Caliciviridae family (mouse norovirus [MNV], rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus, and human norovirus genotype II.10) revealed a "floating" P domain that hovers above the shell by nearly 10 to 15 Å in physiological buffers. Since this unusual feature is shared among, and unique to, the Caliciviridae, it suggests an important biological role. Recently, we demonstrated that bile salts enhance cell attachment to the target cell and increase the intrinsic affinity between the P domain and receptor. Presented here are the cryo-EM structures of MNV-1 in the presence of bile salts (∼3 A) and the receptor CD300lf (∼8 A). Surprisingly, bile salts cause the rotation and contraction of the P domain onto the shell surface. This both stabilizes the P domain and appears to allow for a higher degree of saturation of receptor onto the virus. Together, these results suggest that, as the virus moves into the gut and the associated high concentrations of bile, the entire capsid face undergoes a conformational change to optimize receptor avidity while the P domain itself undergoes smaller conformational changes to improve receptor affinity.
- virion structure