Comparison of zaire and Bundibugyo ebolavirus polymerase complexes and susceptibility to antivirals through a newly developed Bundibugyo minigenome system

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Members of the genus Ebolavirus cause lethal disease in humans, with Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV) being the most pathogenic (up to 90% morality) and Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV) the least pathogenic (;37% mortality). Historically, there has been a lack of research on BDBV, and there is no means to study BDBV outside of a high-containment laboratory. Here, we describe a minigenome replication system to study BDBV transcription and compare the efficacy of small-molecule inhibitors between EBOV and BDBV. Using this system, we examined the ability of the polymerase complex proteins from EBOV and BDBV to interact and form a functional unit as well as the impact of the genomic untranslated ends, known to contain important signals for transcription (39-untranslated region) and replication (59-untrans-lated region). Various levels of compatibility were observed between proteins of the polymerase complex from each ebolavirus, resulting in differences in genome transcription efficiency. Most pronounced was the effect of the nucleoprotein and the 39-untrans-lated region. These data suggest that there are intrinsic specificities in the polymerase complex and untranslated signaling regions that could offer insight regarding observed pathogenic differences. Further adding to the differences in the polymerase complexes, posttransfection/infection treatment with the compound remdesivir (GS-5734) showed a greater inhibitory effect against BDBV than EBOV. The delayed growth kinetics of BDBV and the greater susceptibility to polymerase inhibitors indicate that disruption of the polymerase complex is a viable target for therapeutics. IMPORTANCE Ebolavirus disease is a viral infection and is fatal in 25 to 90% of cases, depending on the viral species and the amount of supportive care available. Two species have caused outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV) and Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV). Pathogenesis and clinical outcome differ between these two species, but there is still limited information regarding the viral mechanism for these differences. Previous studies suggested that BDBV replicates slower than EBOV, but it is unknown if this is due to differences in the polymerase complex and its role in transcription and replication. This study details the construction of a minigenome replication system that can be used in a biosafety level 2 laboratory. This system will be important for studying the polymerase complex of BDBV and comparing it with other filoviruses and can be used as a tool for screening inhibitors of viral growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00643-21
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Bundibugyo
  • Ebola virus
  • Filovirus
  • Minigenome
  • Replication
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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