Human astrovirus coat protein inhibits serum complement activation via C1, the first component of the classical pathway

J Virol. 2008 Jan;82(2):817-27. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01847-07. Epub 2007 Oct 24.


Human astroviruses (HAstVs) belong to a family of nonenveloped, icosahedral RNA viruses that cause noninflammatory gastroenteritis, predominantly in infants. Eight HAstV serotypes have been identified, with a worldwide distribution. While the HAstVs represent a significant public health concern, very little is known about the pathogenesis of and host immune response to these viruses. Here we demonstrate that HAstV type 1 (HAstV-1) virions, specifically the viral coat protein (CP), suppress the complement system, a fundamental component of the innate immune response in vertebrates. HAstV-1 virions and purified CP both suppress hemolytic complement activity. Hemolytic assays utilizing sera depleted of individual complement factors as well as adding back purified factors demonstrated that HAstV CP suppresses classical pathway activation at the first component, C1. HAstV-1 CP bound the A chain of C1q and inhibited serum complement activation, resulting in decreased C4b, iC3b, and terminal C5b-9 formation. Inhibition of complement activation was also demonstrated for HAstV serotypes 2 to 4, suggesting that this phenomenon is a general feature of these human pathogens. Since complement is a major contributor to the initiation and amplification of inflammation, the observed CP-mediated inhibition of complement activity may contribute to the lack of inflammation associated with astrovirus-induced gastroenteritis. Although diverse mechanisms of inhibition of complement activation have been described for many enveloped animal viruses, this is the first report of a nonenveloped icosahedral virus CP inhibiting classical pathway activation at C1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Capsid Proteins / immunology*
  • Complement Activation / immunology*
  • Complement C1q / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Complement C3b / metabolism
  • Complement C4b / metabolism
  • Complement Membrane Attack Complex / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mamastrovirus / immunology*
  • Protein Binding


  • Capsid Proteins
  • Complement Membrane Attack Complex
  • Complement C1q
  • Complement C3b
  • Complement C4b