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PLoS Pathog. 2018 Apr 9;14(4):e1006962. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006962. eCollection 2018 Apr.

Viral chimeras decrypt the role of enterovirus capsid proteins in viral tropism, acid sensitivity and optimal growth temperature.

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University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Medicine, 1 Rue Michel-Servet, Geneva, Switzerland.
University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Immunology, 1 Rue Michel-Servet, Geneva, Switzerland.
Epithelix Sàrl, 18 Chemin des Aulx, Geneva, Switzerland.
Laboratory of Virology, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Geneva Hospitals, 4 Rue Gabrielle Perret-Gentil, Geneva 14, Switzerland.


Despite their genetic similarities, enteric and respiratory enteroviruses (EVs) have highly heterogeneous biophysical properties and cause a vast diversity of human pathologies. In vitro differences include acid sensitivity, optimal growth temperature and tissue tropism, which reflect a preferential in vivo replication in the respiratory or gastrointestinal tract and are thus key determinants of EV virulence. To investigate the underlying cause of these differences, we generated chimeras at the capsid-level between EV-D68 (a respiratory EV) and EV-D94 (an enteric EV). Although some chimeras were nonfunctional, EV-D94 with both the capsid and 2A protease or the capsid only of EV-D68 were both viable. Using this latter construct, we performed several functional assays, which indicated that capsid proteins determine acid sensitivity and tropism in cell lines and in respiratory, intestinal and neural tissues. Additionally, capsid genes were shown to also participate in determining the optimal growth temperature, since EV-D94 temperature adaptation relied on single mutations in VP1, while constructs with EV-D68 capsid could not adapt to higher temperatures. Finally, we demonstrate that EV-D68 maintains residual binding-capacity after acid-treatment despite a loss of infectivity. In contrast, non-structural rather than capsid proteins modulate the innate immune response in tissues. These unique biophysical insights expose another layer in the phenotypic diversity of one of world's most prevalent pathogens and could aid target selection for vaccine or antiviral development.

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