Stress granule components G3BP1 and G3BP2 play a proviral role early in Chikungunya virus replication.


UNLABELLED Stress granules (SGs) are protein-mRNA aggregates that are formed in response to environmental stresses, resulting in translational inhibition. SGs are generally believed to play an antiviral role and are manipulated by many viruses, including various alphaviruses. GTPase-activating protein (SH3 domain)-binding protein 1 (G3BP1) is a key component and commonly used marker of SGs. Its homolog G3BP2 is a less extensively studied SG component. Here, we demonstrate that Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection induces cytoplasmic G3BP1- and G3BP2-containing granules that differ from bona fide SGs in terms of morphology, composition, and behavior. For several Old World alphaviruses it has been shown that nonstructural protein 3 (nsP3) interacts with G3BPs, presumably to inhibit SG formation, and we have confirmed this interaction in CHIKV-infected cells. Surprisingly, CHIKV also relied on G3BPs for efficient replication, as simultaneous depletion of G3BP1 and G3BP2 reduced viral RNA levels, CHIKV protein expression, and viral progeny titers. The G3BPs colocalized with CHIKV nsP2 and nsP3 in cytoplasmic foci, but no colocalization with nsP1, nsP4, or dsRNA was observed. Furthermore, G3BPs could not be detected in a cellular fraction enriched for CHIKV replication/transcription complexes, suggesting that they are not directly involved in CHIKV RNA synthesis. Depletion of G3BPs did not affect viral entry, translation of incoming genomes, or nonstructural polyprotein processing but resulted in severely reduced levels of negative-stranded (and consequently also positive-stranded) RNA. This suggests a role for the G3BPs in the switch from translation to genome amplification, although the exact mechanism by which they act remains to be explored. IMPORTANCE Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) causes a severe polyarthritis that has affected millions of people since its reemergence in 2004. The lack of approved vaccines or therapeutic options and the ongoing explosive outbreak in the Caribbean underline the importance of better understanding CHIKV replication. Stress granules (SGs) are cytoplasmic protein-mRNA aggregates formed in response to various stresses, including viral infection. The RNA-binding proteins G3BP1 and G3BP2 are essential SG components. SG formation and the resulting translational inhibition are generally considered an antiviral response, and many viruses manipulate or block this process. Late in infection, we and others have observed CHIKV nonstructural protein 3 in cytoplasmic G3BP1- and G3BP2-containing granules. These virally induced foci differed from true SGs and did not appear to represent replication complexes. Surprisingly, we found that G3BP1 and G3BP2 were also needed for efficient CHIKV replication, likely by facilitating the switch from translation to genome amplification early in infection.

DOI: 10.1128/JVI.03612-14
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