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J Virol. 2012 Dec;86(23):13049-61. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01248-12. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

Human metapneumovirus M2-2 protein inhibits innate cellular signaling by targeting MAVS.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA.


Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a leading cause of respiratory infections in pediatric populations globally, with no prophylactic or therapeutic measures. Recently, a recombinant hMPV lacking the M2-2 protein (rhMPV-ΔM2-2) demonstrated reduced replication in the respiratory tract of animal models, making it a promising live vaccine candidate. However, the exact nature of the interaction between the M2-2 protein and host cells that regulates viral infection/propagation is largely unknown. By taking advantage of the available reverse genetics system and ectopic expression system for viral protein, we found that M2-2 not only promotes viral gene transcription and replication but subverts host innate immunity, therefore identifying M2-2 as a novel virulence factor, in addition to the previously described hMPV G protein. Since we have shown that the RIG-I/MAVS pathway plays an important role in hMPV-induced signaling in airway epithelial cells, we investigated whether M2-2 antagonizes the host cellular responses by targeting this pathway. Reporter gene assays and coimmunoprecipitation studies indicated that M2-2 targets MAVS, an inhibitory mechanism different from what we previously reported for hMPV G, which affects RIG-I- but not MAVS-dependent gene transcription. In addition, we found that the domains of M2-2 responsible for the regulation of viral gene transcription and antiviral signaling are different. Our findings collectively demonstrate that M2-2 contributes to hMPV immune evasion through the inhibition of MAVS-dependent cellular responses.

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