Rotavirus NSP1 Contributes to Intestinal Viral Replication, Pathogenesis, and Transmission

Gaopeng Hou, Qiru Zeng, Jelle Matthijnssens, Harry B. Greenberg, Siyuan Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rotavirus (RV)-encoded nonstructural protein 1 (NSP1), the product of gene segment 5, effectively antagonizes host interferon (IFN) signaling via multiple mechanisms. Recent studies with the newly established RV reverse genetics system indicate that NSP1 is not essential for the replication of the simian RV SA11 strain in cell culture. However, the role of NSP1 in RV infection in vivo remains poorly characterized due to the limited replication of heterologous simian RVs in the suckling mouse model. Here, we used an optimized reverse genetics system and successfully recovered recombinant murine RVs with or without NSP1 expression. While the NSP1-null virus replicated comparably with the parental murine RV in IFN-deficient and IFN-competent cell lines in vitro, it was highly attenuated in 5-day-old wild-type suckling pups in both the 129sv and C57BL/6 backgrounds. In the absence of NSP1 expression, murine RV had significantly reduced replication in the ileum, systemic spread to mesenteric lymph nodes, fecal shedding, diarrhea occurrence, and transmission to uninoculated littermates. The defective replication of the NSP1-null RV in small intestinal tissues occurred as early as 1 day postinfection. Of interest, the replication and pathogenesis defects of NSP1-null RV were only minimally rescued in Stat1 knockout pups, suggesting that NSP1 facilitates RV replication in an IFN-independent manner. Our findings highlight a pivotal function of NSP1 during homologous RV infections in vivo and identify NSP1 as an ideal viral protein for targeted attenuation for future vaccine development. IMPORTANCE Rotavirus remains one of the most important causes of severe diarrhea and dehydration in young children worldwide. Although NSP1 is dispensable for rotavirus replication in cell culture, its exact role in virus infection in vivo remains unclear. In this study, we demonstrate, for the first time in a pathologically valid homologous small animal model, that in the context of a fully replication-competent, pathogenic, and transmissible murine rotavirus, loss of NSP1 expression substantially attenuated virus replication in the gastrointestinal tract, diarrheal disease, and virus transmission. Notably, the NSP1-deficient murine rotavirus also replicated poorly in mice lacking host interferon or inflammasome signaling. Our data provide the first piece of evidence that NSP1 is essential for murine rotavirus replication in vivo, making it an attractive target for developing improved next-generation rotavirus vaccines better suited for socioeconomically disadvantaged and immunocompromised individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03208-21
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • Double-stranded RNA virus
  • Enteric viruses
  • Innate immunity
  • Interferons
  • NSP1
  • Reverse genetics
  • Rotavirus


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