Surface loop dynamics in adeno-associated virus capsid assembly.
The HI loop is a prominent domain on the adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsid surface that extends from each viral protein (VP) subunit overlapping the neighboring fivefold VP. Despite the highly conserved nature of the residues at the fivefold pore, the HI loops surrounding this critical region vary significantly in amino acid sequence between the AAV serotypes. In order to understand the role of this unique capsid domain, we ablated side chain interactions between the HI loop and the underlying EF loop in the neighboring VP subunit by generating a collection of deletion, insertion, and substitution mutants. A mutant lacking the HI loop was unable to assemble particles, while a substitution mutant (10 glycine residues) assembled particles but was unable to package viral genomes. Substitution mutants carrying corresponding regions from AAV1, AAV4, AAV5, and AAV8 yielded (i) particles with titers and infectivity identical to those of AAV2 (AAV2 HI1 and HI8), (ii) particles with a decreased virus titer (1 log) but normal infectivity (HI4), and (iii) particles that synthesized VPs but were unable to assemble into intact capsids (HI5). AAV5 HI is shorter than all other HI loops by one amino acid. Replacing the missing residue (threonine) in AAV2 HI5 resulted in a moderate particle assembly rescue. In addition, we replaced the HI loop with peptides varying in length and amino acid sequence. This region tolerated seven-amino-acid peptide substitutions unless they spanned a conserved phenylalanine at amino acid position 661. Mutation of this highly conserved phenylalanine to a glycine resulted in a modest decrease in virus titer but a substantial decrease (1 log order) in infectivity. Subsequently, confocal studies revealed that AAV2 F661G is incapable of efficiently completing a key step in the infectious pathway nuclear entry, hinting at a possible perturbation of VP1 phospholipase activity. Molecular modeling studies with the F661G mutant suggest that disruption of interactions between F661 and an underlying P373 residue in the EF loop of the neighboring subunit might adversely affect incorporation of the VP1 subunit at the fivefold axis. Western blot analysis confirmed inefficient incorporation of VP1, as well as a proteolytically processed VP1 subunit that could account for the markedly reduced infectivity. In summary, our studies show that the HI loop, while flexible in amino acid sequence, is critical for AAV capsid assembly, proper VP1 subunit incorporation, and viral genome packaging, all of which implies a potential role for this unique surface domain in viral infectivity.
DiPrimio, N; Asokan, A; Govindasamy, L; Agbandje-McKenna, M; Samulski, RJ
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