Rescue of Infectious Recombinant Hazara Nairovirus from cDNA Reveals the Nucleocapsid Protein DQVD Caspase Cleavage Motif Performs an Essential Role other than Cleavage.


School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom [Email]


The Nairoviridae family of the Bunyavirales order comprises tick-borne, trisegmented, negative-strand RNA viruses, with several members being associated with serious or fatal diseases in humans and animals. A notable member is Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV), which is the most widely distributed tick-borne pathogen and is associated with devastating human disease, with case fatality rates averaging 30%. Hazara virus (HAZV) is closely related to CCHFV, sharing the same serogroup and many structural, biochemical, and cellular properties. To improve understanding of HAZV and nairovirus multiplication cycles, we developed, for the first time, a rescue system permitting efficient recovery of infectious HAZV from cDNA. This system now allows reverse genetic analysis of nairoviruses without the need for high-level biosafety containment, as is required for CCHFV. We used this system to test the importance of a DQVD caspase cleavage site exposed on the apex of the HAZV nucleocapsid protein arm domain that is cleaved during HAZV infection, for which the equivalent DEVD sequence was recently shown to be important for CCHFV growth in tick but not mammalian cells. Infectious HAZV bearing an uncleavable DQVE sequence was rescued and exhibited growth parameters equivalent to those of wild-type virus in both mammalian and tick cells, showing this site was dispensable for virus multiplication. In contrast, substitution of the DQVD motif with the similarly uncleavable AQVA sequence could not be rescued despite repeated efforts. Together, these results highlight the importance of this caspase cleavage site in the HAZV life cycle but reveal the DQVD sequence performs a critical role aside from caspase cleavage.IMPORTANCE HAZV is classified within the Nairoviridae family with CCHFV, which is one of the most lethal human pathogens in existence, requiring the highest biosafety level (BSL) containment (BSL4). In contrast, HAZV is not associated with human disease and thus can be studied using less-restrictive BSL2 protocols. Here, we report a system that is able to rescue HAZV from cDNAs, thus permitting reverse genetic interrogation of the HAZV replication cycle. We used this system to examine the role of a caspase cleavage site, DQVD, within the HAZV nucleocapsid protein that is also conserved in CCHFV. By engineering mutant viruses, we showed caspase cleavage at this site was not required for productive infection and this sequence performs a critical role in the virus life cycle aside from caspase cleavage. This system will accelerate nairovirus research due to its efficiency and utility under amenable BSL2 protocols.


Hazara virus,caspases,reverse genetics,virus rescue,

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