Discrete viral E2 lysine residues and scavenger receptor MARCO are required for clearance of circulating alphaviruses

Elife. 2019 Oct 9;8:e49163. doi: 10.7554/eLife.49163.


The magnitude and duration of vertebrate viremia is a critical determinant of arbovirus transmission, geographic spread, and disease severity. We find that multiple alphaviruses, including chikungunya (CHIKV), Ross River (RRV), and o'nyong 'nyong (ONNV) viruses, are cleared from the circulation of mice by liver Kupffer cells, impeding viral dissemination. Clearance from the circulation was independent of natural antibodies or complement factor C3, and instead relied on scavenger receptor SR-A6 (MARCO). Remarkably, lysine to arginine substitutions at distinct residues within the E2 glycoproteins of CHIKV and ONNV (E2 K200R) as well as RRV (E2 K251R) allowed for escape from clearance and enhanced viremia and dissemination. Mutational analysis revealed that viral clearance from the circulation is strictly dependent on the presence of lysine at these positions. These findings reveal a previously unrecognized innate immune pathway that controls alphavirus viremia and dissemination in vertebrate hosts, ultimately influencing disease severity and likely transmission efficiency.

Keywords: alphavirus; arbovirus; infectious disease; innate immunity; microbiology; mouse; scavenger receptor; virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alphavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Chikungunya virus / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Kupffer Cells / immunology*
  • Lysine / genetics
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mutation, Missense
  • O'nyong-nyong Virus / immunology*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism*
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / genetics*
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / immunology*


  • Marco protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • Lysine

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE109774