Vesicular stomatitis viruses resistant to the methylase inhibitor sinefungin upregulate RNA synthesis and reveal mutations that affect mRNA cap methylation

Jianrong Li, John S. Chorba, Sean P.J. Whelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sinefungin (SIN), a natural S-adenosyl-L-methionine analog produced by Streptomyces griseolus, is a potent inhibitor of methyltransferases. We evaluated the effect of SIN on replication of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a prototype of the nonsegmented negative-strand RNA viruses. The 241-kDa large polymerase (L) protein of VSV methylates viral mRNA cap structures at the guanine-N-7 (G-N-T) and ribose-2′-O (2′-O) positions. By performing transcription reactions in vitro, we show that both methylations are inhibited by SIN and that methylation was more sensitive at the G-N-T than at 2′-O position. We further show that SIN inhibited growth of VSV in cell culture, reducing viral yield by 50-fold and diminishing plaque size. We isolated eight mutants that were resistant to SIN as judged by their growth characteristics. The SIN-resistant (SINR) viruses contained mutations in the L gene, the promoter for L gene expression provided by the conserved sequence elements of the G-L gene junction and the M gene. Five mutations resulted in amino acid substitutions to conserved regions II/III and VI of the L protein. For each mutant, we examined viral gene expression in cells and cap methylation in vitro. SINR mutants upregulated RNA synthesis in the presence of SIN, which may be responsible for their resistance. We also found that some SIN R viruses with L gene mutations were defective in cap methylation in vitro, yet their methylases were less sensitive to SIN inhibition than those of the wild-type parent. These studies show that the VSV methylases are inhibited by SIN, and they define new regions of L protein that affect cap methylation. These studies also provide experimental evidence that inhibition of cap methylases is a potential strategy for development of antiviral therapeutics against nonsegmented negative-strand RNA viruses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4104-4115
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of virology
Volume81
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2007

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