Rift Valley fever phlebovirus (RVFV) has a single-stranded, negative-sense RNA genome, consisting of L, M, and S segments. The virion carries two envelope glycoproteins, Gn and Gc, along with ribonucleoprotein complexes (RNPs), composed of encapsidated genomes carrying N protein and the viral polymerase, L protein. A quantitative analysis of the profile of viral RNA segments packaged into RVFV particles showed that all three genomic RNA segments had similar packaging abilities, whereas among antigenomic RNA segments, the antigenomic S RNA, which serves as the template for the transcription of mRNA expressing the RVFV virulence factor, NSs, displayed a significantly higher packaging ability. To delineate the factor(s) governing the packaging of RVFV RNA segments, we characterized the interactions between Gn and viral RNPs in RVFV-infected cells. Coimmunoprecipitation analysis demonstrated the interaction of Gn with N protein, L protein, and viral RNAs in RVFV-infected cells. Furthermore, UV-cross-linking and immunoprecipitation analysis revealed, for the first time in bunyaviruses, the presence of a direct interaction between Gn and all the viral RNA segments in RVFV-infected cells. Notably, analysis of the ability of Gn to bind to RVFV RNA segments indicated a positive correlation with their respective packaging abilities and highlighted a binding preference of Gn for antigenomic S RNA, among the antigenomic RNA segments, suggesting the presence of a selection mechanism for antigenomic S RNA incorporation into infectious RVFV particles. Collectively, the results of our study illuminate the importance of a direct interaction between Gn and viral RNA segments in determining their efficiency of incorporation into RVFV particles. IMPORTANCE Rift Valley fever phlebovirus, a bunyavirus, is a mosquito-borne, segmented RNA virus that can cause severe disease in humans and ruminants. An essential step in RVFV life cycle is the packaging of viral RNA segments to produce infectious virus particles for dissemination to new hosts. However, there are key gaps in knowledge regarding the mechanisms that regulate viral RNA packaging efficiency in bunyaviruses. Our studies investigating the mechanism of RNA packaging in RVFV revealed the presence of a direct interaction between the viral envelope glycoprotein, Gn, and the viral RNA segments in infected cells, for the first time in bunyaviruses. Furthermore, our data strongly indicate a critical role for the direct interaction between Gn and viral RNAs in determining the efficiency of incorporation of viral RNA segments into RVFV particles. Clarifying the fundamental mechanisms of RNA packaging in RVFV would be valuable for the development of antivirals and live-attenuated vaccines.
- RNA-protein interaction
- Rift Valley fever phlebovirus
- Viral RNA packaging
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science