National Center for
4D4T: Rsv Matrix Protein
J. Virol. (2015) 89 p.4624-4635
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infects epithelial cells of the respiratory tract and is a major cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children and the elderly. The virus assembles and buds through the plasma membrane, forming elongated membrane filaments, but details of how this happens remain obscure. Oligomerization of the matrix protein (M) is a key step in the process of assembly and infectious virus production. In addition, it was suggested to affect the conformation of the fusion protein, the major current target for RSV antivirals, in the mature virus. The structure and assembly of M are thus key parameters in the RSV antiviral development strategy. The structure of RSV M was previously published as a monomer. Other paramyxovirus M proteins have been shown to dimerize, and biochemical data suggest that RSV M also dimerizes. Here, using size exclusion chromatography-multiangle laser light scattering, we show that the protein is dimeric in solution. We also crystallized M in two crystal forms and show that it assembles into equivalent dimers in both lattices. Dimerization interface mutations destabilize the M dimer in vitro. To assess the biological relevance of dimerization, we used confocal imaging to show that dimerization interface mutants of M fail to assemble into viral filaments on the plasma membrane. Additionally, budding and release of virus-like particles are prevented in M mutants that fail to form filaments. Importantly, we show that M is biologically active as a dimer and that the switch from M dimers to higher-order oligomers triggers viral filament assembly and virus production. IMPORTANCE: Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most frequent cause of infantile bronchiolitis and pneumonia. The enormous burden of RSV makes it a major unmet target for a vaccine and antiviral drug therapy. Oligomerization of the matrix protein is a key step in the process of assembly and production of infectious virus, but the molecular mechanism of RSV assembly is still poorly understood. Here we show that the RSV matrix protein forms dimers in solution and in crystals; the dimer is essential for formation of higher-order oligomers. Destabilizing the dimer interface resulted in the loss of RSV filament formation and a lack of budding of virus-like particles. Importantly, our findings can potentially lead to new structure-based RSV inhibitors targeting the assembly process.