Reovirus attachment protein σ1 is a trimeric molecule containing tail, body, and head domains. During infection, σ1 engages sialylated glycans and junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A), triggering uptake into the endocytic compartment, where virions are proteolytically converted to infectious subvirion particles (ISVPs). Further disassembly allows σ1 release and escape of transcriptionally active reovirus cores into the cytosol. Electron microscopy has revealed a distinct conformational change in σ1 from a compact form on virions to an extended form on ISVPs. To determine the importance of σ1 conformational mobility, we used reverse genetics to introduce cysteine mutations that can cross-link σ1 by establishing disulfide bonds between structurally adjacent sites in the tail, body, and head domains. We detected phenotypic differences among the engineered viruses. A mutant with a cysteine pair in the head domain replicates with enhanced kinetics, forms large plaques, and displays increased avidity for JAM-A relative to the parental virus, mimicking properties of ISVPs. However, unlike ISVPs, particles containing cysteine mutations that cross-link the head domain uncoat and transcribe viral positive-sense RNA with kinetics similar to the parental virus and are sensitive to ammonium chloride, which blocks virion-to-ISVP conversion. Together, these data suggest that σ1 conformational flexibility modulates the efficiency of reovirus host cell attachment.IMPORTANCE Nonenveloped virus entry is an incompletely understood process. For reovirus, the functional significance of conformational rearrangements in the attachment protein, σ1, that occur during entry and particle uncoating are unknown. We engineered and characterized reoviruses containing cysteine mutations that cross-link σ1 monomers in nonreducing conditions. We found that the introduction of a cysteine pair in the receptor-binding domain of σ1 yielded a virus that replicates with faster kinetics than the parental virus and forms larger plaques. Using functional assays, we found that cross-linking the σ1 receptor-binding domain modulates reovirus attachment but not uncoating or transcription. These data suggest that σ1 conformational rearrangements mediate the efficiency of reovirus host cell binding.
Keywords: crosslink; disulfide; glycan; junctional adhesion molecule-A; receptor; reovirus; sialic acid.
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