Ebola Virus Delta Peptide Is a Viroporin

J Virol. 2017 Jul 27;91(16):e00438-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00438-17. Print 2017 Aug 15.


The Ebola virus (EBOV) genome encodes a partly conserved 40-residue nonstructural polypeptide, called the delta peptide, that is produced in abundance during Ebola virus disease (EVD). The function of the delta peptide is unknown, but sequence analysis has suggested that delta peptide could be a viroporin, belonging to a diverse family of membrane-permeabilizing small polypeptides involved in replication and pathogenesis of numerous viruses. Full-length and conserved C-terminal delta peptide fragments permeabilize the plasma membranes of nucleated cells of rodent, dog, monkey, and human origin; increase ion permeability across confluent cell monolayers; and permeabilize synthetic lipid bilayers. Permeabilization activity is completely dependent on the disulfide bond between the two conserved cysteines. The conserved C-terminal portion of the peptide is biochemically stable in human serum, and most serum-stable fragments have full activity. Taken together, the evidence strongly suggests that Ebola virus delta peptide is a viroporin and that it may be a novel, targetable aspect of Ebola virus disease pathology.IMPORTANCE During the unparalleled West African outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) that began in late 2013, the lack of effective countermeasures resulted in chains of serial infection and a high mortality rate among infected patients. A better understanding of disease pathology is desperately needed to develop better countermeasures. We show here that the Ebola virus delta peptide, a conserved nonstructural protein produced in large quantities by infected cells, has the characteristics of a viroporin. This information suggests a critical role for the delta peptide in Ebola virus disease pathology and as a possible target for novel countermeasures.

Keywords: Ebola virus; delta peptide; enterotoxins; permeabilization; viroporin.