Chaperone-Assisted Protein Folding Is Critical for Yellow Fever Virus NS3/4A Cleavage and Replication

J Virol. 2016 Jan 6;90(6):3212-28. doi: 10.1128/JVI.03077-15.


DNAJC14, a heat shock protein 40 (Hsp40) cochaperone, assists with Hsp70-mediated protein folding. Overexpressed DNAJC14 is targeted to sites of yellow fever virus (YFV) replication complex (RC) formation, where it interacts with viral nonstructural (NS) proteins and inhibits viral RNA replication. How RCs are assembled and the roles of chaperones in this coordinated process are largely unknown. We hypothesized that chaperones are diverted from their normal cellular protein quality control function to play similar roles during viral infection. Here, we show that DNAJC14 overexpression affects YFV polyprotein processing and alters RC assembly. We monitored YFV NS2A-5 polyprotein processing by the viral NS2B-3 protease in DNAJC14-overexpressing cells. Notably, DNAJC14 mutants that did not inhibit YFV replication had minimal effects on polyprotein processing, while overexpressed wild-type DNAJC14 affected the NS3/4A and NS4A/2K cleavage sites, resulting in altered NS3-to-NS3-4A ratios. This suggests that DNAJC14's folding activity normally modulates NS3/4A/2K cleavage events to liberate appropriate levels of NS3 and NS4A and promote RC formation. We introduced amino acid substitutions at the NS3/4A site to alter the levels of the NS3 and NS4A products and examined their effects on YFV replication. Residues with reduced cleavage efficiency did not support viral RNA replication, and only revertant viruses with a restored wild-type arginine or lysine residue at the NS3/4A site were obtained. We conclude that DNAJC14 inhibition of RC formation upon DNAJC14 overexpression is likely due to chaperone dysregulation and that YFV probably utilizes DNAJC14's cochaperone function to modulate processing at the NS3/4A site as a mechanism ensuring virus replication.

Importance: Flaviviruses are single-stranded RNA viruses that cause a wide range of illnesses. Upon host cell entry, the viral genome is translated on endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes to produce a single polyprotein, which is cleaved by host and viral proteases to generate viral proteins required for genome replication and virion production. Several studies suggest a role for molecular chaperones during these processes. While the details of chaperone roles have been elusive, in this report we show that overexpression of the ER-resident cochaperone DNAJC14 affects YFV polyprotein processing at the NS3/4A site. This work reveals that DNAJC14 modulation of NS3/4A site processing is an important mechanism to ensure virus replication. Our work highlights the importance of finely regulating flavivirus polyprotein processing. In addition, it suggests future studies to address similarities and/or differences among flaviviruses and to interrogate the precise mechanisms employed for polyprotein processing, a critical step that can ultimately be targeted for novel drug development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Fetal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism*
  • Protein Folding*
  • Proteolysis
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication*
  • Yellow fever virus / physiology*


  • DNAJC14 protein, human
  • Fetal Proteins
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • NS3 protein, yellow fever virus
  • NS4A protein, flavivirus
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins