Background: There is a significant requirement for the development and acquisition of reagents that will facilitate effective diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Lassa fever. In this regard, detection of early markers of Lassa virus (LASV) infection may improve diagnosis and ultimately successful treatment with antivirals. Characterization of LASV GP1 ectodomain shedding is an important step toward developing sensitive diagnostics to detect circulating levels of this viral glycoprotein in infected patient sera.
Results: Secretion of GP1 from mammalian cells expressing a native LASV GPC gene was not mediated by proteolytic cleavage, as determined by treatment with a panel of matrix metalloprotease (MMP) inhibitors. The shedding of GP1 was also not the result of over-expression of GPC under the control of a strong intron-A containing CMV promoter, as the soluble component could be immunoprecipitated from supernatants of cells expressing low levels of GPC under the control of an intronless promoter. Cells transfected with GPC retained surface membrane-associated expression of GP1 as determined by immunofluorescence assay, in addition to secreting the glycoprotein.Secreted GP1 derived from GPC expression has a higher content of high mannose N-linked glycosylation than sGP1 expressed independently from the GP2 portion of the protein. Neither GP1 isoform contains sialylated N-glycans, O-linked carbohydrate chains, or galactose-beta(1-4)-N-acetylglucosamine commonly present in complex and hybrid N-glycan structures.
Conclusion: These results demonstrate the non-proteolytic secretory nature of GP1 shedding during expression of the arenaviral glycoprotein complex. This phenomenon parallels shedding of a secretory glycoprotein component in filovirus replication. The glycosylation pattern of soluble GP1 resulting from expression of GPC was different from that of a soluble GP1 construct (sGP1-RRAA-FLAG), highlighting the intricately orchestrated post translational processing of the LASV glycoprotein complex.