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J Virol. 2006 Jan;80(2):900-11.

The amino-terminal domain of bovine viral diarrhea virus Npro protein is necessary for alpha/beta interferon antagonism.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 68583-0905, USA.


The alpha/beta interferon (IFN-alpha/beta) system is the first line of defense against viral infection and a critical link between the innate and adaptive immune responses. IFN-alpha/beta secretion is the hallmark of cellular responses to acute RNA virus infections. As part of their survival strategy, many viruses have evolved mechanisms to counteract the host IFN-alpha/beta response. Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) (genus Pestivirus) was reported to trigger interferon production in infected cultured cells under certain circumstances or to suppress it under others. Our studies with various cultured fibroblasts and epithelial bovine cells indicated that cytopathic (cp) BVDV induces IFN-alpha/beta very inefficiently. Using a set of engineered cp BVDVs expressing mutant Npro and appropriate controls, we found that the IFN-alpha/beta response to infection was dependent on Npro expression and independent of viral replication efficiency. In order to investigate whether the protease activity of Npro is required for IFN-alpha/beta antagonism, we engineered Npro mutants lacking protease activity by replacement of amino acid E22, H49, or C69. We found that E22 and H49 substitutions abolished the ability of Npro to suppress IFN, whereas C69 had no effect, suggesting that the structural integrity of the N terminus of Npro was more important than its catalytic activity for IFN-alpha/beta suppression. A catalytically active mutant with a change at a conserved Npro region near the N terminus (L8P) in both BVDV biotypes did not antagonize IFN-alpha/beta production, confirming its involvement in this process. Taken together, these results not only provide direct evidence for the role of Npro in blocking IFN-alpha/beta induction, but also implicate the amino-terminal domain of the protein in this function.

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