The Francis Crick Institute
Journal of Virology-2017-Eksmond-e01152-17.full.pdf (2.76 MB)

Mutation of the putative immunosuppressive domain of the retroviral envelope glycoprotein compromises infectivity

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-08-12, 12:54 authored by Urszula Eksmond, Bryony Jenkins, Julia Merkenschlager, Walther Mothes, Jonathan P Stoye, George Kassiotis
The envelope glycoprotein of diverse endogenous and exogenous retroviruses is considered inherently immunosuppressive. Extensive work mapped the immunosuppressive activity to a highly conserved domain, termed the immunosuppressive domain (ISD), in the transmembrane (TM) subunit of the envelope glycoprotein and identified two naturally polymorphic key residues that afford immunosuppressive activity to distinct envelope glycoproteins. Concurrent mutation of these two key residues (E14R and A20F) in the envelope glycoprotein of the Friend murine leukemia virus (F-MLV) ISD has been reported to abolish its immunosuppressive activity, without affecting its fusogenicity, and to weaken the ability of the virus to replicate specifically in immunocompetent hosts. Here, we show that mutation of these key residues did, in fact, result in a substantial loss of F-MLV infectivity, independently of host immunity, challenging whether associations exist between the two. Notably, a loss of infectivity incurred by the F-MLV mutant with the E14R and A20F double ISD mutation was conditional on expression of the ecotropic envelope receptor murine cationic amino acid transporter-1 (mCAT1) in the virus-producing cell. Indeed, the F-MLV mutant retained infectivity when it was produced by human cells, which naturally lack mCAT1 expression, but not by murine cells. Furthermore, mCAT1 overexpression in human cells impaired the infectivity of both the F-MLV double mutant and the wild-type F-MLV strain, suggesting a finely tuned relationship between the levels of mCAT1 in the producer cell and the infectivity of the virions produced. An adverse effect on this relationship, rather than disruption of the putative ISD, is therefore more likely to explain the loss of F-MLV infectivity incurred by mutations in key ISD residues E14 and A20.IMPORTANCE Retroviruses can interact with their hosts in ways that, although not entirely understood, can greatly influence their pathogenic potential. One such example is a putative immunosuppressive activity, which has been mapped to a conserved domain of the retroviral envelope glycoprotein of several exogenous as well as endogenous retroviruses. In this study, mutations naturally found in some envelope glycoproteins lacking immunosuppressive activity were shown to affect retrovirus infectivity only if the host cell that produced the retrovirus also expressed the cellular entry receptor. These findings shed light on a novel role for this conserved domain in providing the necessary stability to the envelope glycoprotein in order to withstand the interaction with the cellular receptor during virus formation. This function of the domain is critical for further elucidation of the mechanism of immunosuppression mediated by the retroviral envelope glycoprotein.