Chloroviruses are unusual among viruses infecting eukaryotic organisms in that they must, like bacteriophages, penetrate a rigid cell wall to initiate infection. Chlorovirus PBCV-1 infects its host, Chlorella variabilis NC64A by specifically binding to and degrading the cell wall of the host at the point of contact by a virus-packaged enzyme(s). However, PBCV-1 does not use any of the five previously characterized virus-encoded polysaccharide degrading enzymes to digest the Chlorella host cell wall during virus entry because none of the enzymes are packaged in the virion. A search for another PBCV-1-encoded and virion-associated protein identified protein A561L. The fourth domain of A561L is a 242 amino acid C-terminal domain, named A561LD4, with cell wall degrading activity. An A561LD4 homolog was present in all 52 genomically sequenced chloroviruses, infecting four different algal hosts. A561LD4 degraded the cell walls of all four chlorovirus hosts, as well as several non-host Chlorella spp. Thus, A561LD4 was not cell-type specific. Finally, we discovered that exposure of highly purified PBCV-1 virions to A561LD4 increased the specific infectivity of PBCV-1 from about 25-30% of the particles forming plaques to almost 50%. We attribute this increase to removal of residual host receptor that attached to newly replicated viruses in the cell lysates.
Keywords: Chlorella; PBCV-1; Phycodnaviridae; algal lytic activity; alginate-like lyase; cell wall degrading activity; chlorovirus.