Ebolavirus is the pathogen for Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF). This disease exhibits a high fatality rate and has recently reached a historically epidemic proportion in West Africa. Out of the 5 known Ebolavirus species, only Reston ebolavirus has lost human pathogenicity, while retaining the ability to cause EHF in long-tailed macaque. Significant efforts have been spent to determine the three-dimensional (3D) structures of Ebolavirus proteins, to study their interaction with host proteins, and to identify the functional motifs in these viral proteins. Here, in light of these experimental results, we apply computational analysis to predict the 3D structures and functional sites for Ebolavirus protein domains with unknown structure, including a zinc-finger domain of VP30, the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase catalytic domain and a methyltransferase domain of protein L. In addition, we compare sequences of proteins that interact with Ebolavirus proteins from RESTV-resistant primates with those from RESTV-susceptible monkeys. The host proteins that interact with GP and VP35 show an elevated level of sequence divergence between the RESTV-resistant and RESTV-susceptible species, suggesting that they may be responsible for host specificity. Meanwhile, we detect variable positions in protein sequences that are likely associated with the loss of human pathogenicity in RESTV, map them onto the 3D structures and compare their positions to known functional sites. VP35 and VP30 are significantly enriched in these potential pathogenicity determinants and the clustering of such positions on the surfaces of VP35 and GP suggests possible uncharacterized interaction sites with host proteins that contribute to the virulence of Ebolavirus.
Keywords: Ebolavirus; Pathogenicity; comparative analysis; functional site prediction; structure prediction.