Ranaviruses (family Iridoviridae, genus Ranavirus) are large, double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viruses whose replication is restricted to ectothermic vertebrates. Many highly pathogenic members of the genus Ranavirus encode a homologue of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α). Data in a heterologous vaccinia virus system suggest that the Ambystoma tigrinum virus (ATV) eIF2α homologue (vIF2αH; open reading frame [ORF] 57R) is involved in evading the host innate immune response by degrading the interferon-inducible, dsRNA-activated protein kinase, PKR. To test this hypothesis directly, the ATV vIF2αH gene (ORF 57R) was deleted by homologous recombination, and a selectable marker was inserted in its place. The ATVΔ57R virus has a small plaque phenotype and is 8-fold more sensitive to interferon than wild-type ATV (wtATV). Infection of fish cells with the ATVΔ57R virus leads to eIF2α phosphorylation, in contrast to infection with wtATV, which actively inhibits eIF2α phosphorylation. The inability of ATVΔ57R to prevent phosphorylation of eIF2α correlates with degradation of fish PKZ, an interferon-inducible enzyme that is closely related to mammalian PKR. In addition, salamanders infected with ATVΔ57R displayed an increased time to death compared to that of wtATV-infected salamanders. Therefore, in a biologically relevant system, the ATV vIF2αH gene acts as an innate immune evasion factor, thereby enhancing virus pathogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science