Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is a member of the genus Phlebovirus within the family Bunyaviridae. It can cause severe epidemics among ruminants and fever, myalgia, a hemorrhagic syndrome, and/or encephalitis in humans. The RVFV M segment encodes the NSm and 78-kDa proteins and two major envelope proteins, Gn and Gc. The biological functions of the NSm and 78-kDa proteins are unknown; both proteins are dispensable for viral replication in cell cultures. To determine the biological functions of the NSm and 78-kDa proteins, we generated the mutant virus arMP-12-del21/384, carrying a large deletion in the pre-Gn region of the M segment. Neither NSm nor the 78-kDa protein was synthesized in arMP-12-del21/384-infected cells. Although arMP-12-del21/384 and its parental virus, arMP-12, showed similar growth kinetics and viral RNA and protein accumulation in infected cells, arMP-12-del21/384-infected cells induced extensive cell death and produced larger plaques than did arMP-12-infected cells. arMP-12-del21/384 replication triggered apoptosis, including the cleavage of caspase-3, the cleavage of its downstream substrate, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, and activation of the initiator caspases, caspase-8 and -9, earlier in infection than arMP-12. NSm expression in arMP-12-del21/384-infected cells suppressed the severity of caspase-3 activation. Further, NSm protein expression inhibited the staurosporine-induced activation of caspase-8 and -9, demonstrating that other viral proteins were dispensable for NSm's function in inhibiting apoptosis. RVFV NSm protein is the first identified Phlebovirus protein that has an antiapoptotic function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science