Unique Mutations in the Murine Hepatitis Virus Macrodomain Differentially Attenuate Virus Replication, Indicating Multiple Roles for the Macrodomain in Coronavirus Replication

J Virol. 2021 Jul 12;95(15):e0076621. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00766-21. Epub 2021 Jul 12.


All coronaviruses (CoVs) contain a macrodomain, also termed Mac1, in nonstructural protein 3 (nsp3) that binds and hydrolyzes mono-ADP-ribose (MAR) covalently attached to proteins. Despite several reports demonstrating that Mac1 is a prominent virulence factor, there is still a limited understanding of its cellular roles during infection. Currently, most of the information regarding the role of CoV Mac1 during infection is based on a single point mutation of a highly conserved asparagine residue, which makes contact with the distal ribose of ADP-ribose. To determine if additional Mac1 activities contribute to CoV replication, we compared the replication of murine hepatitis virus (MHV) Mac1 mutants, D1329A and N1465A, to the previously mentioned asparagine mutant, N1347A. These residues contact the adenine and proximal ribose in ADP-ribose, respectively. N1465A had no effect on MHV replication or pathogenesis, while D1329A and N1347A both replicated poorly in bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs), were inhibited by PARP enzymes, and were highly attenuated in vivo. Interestingly, D1329A was also significantly more attenuated than N1347A in all cell lines tested. Conversely, D1329A retained some ability to block beta interferon (IFN-β) transcript accumulation compared to N1347A, indicating that these mutations have different effects on Mac1 functions. Combining these two mutations resulted in a virus that was unrecoverable, suggesting that the combined activities of Mac1 are essential for MHV replication. We conclude that Mac1 has multiple functions that promote the replication of MHV, and that these results provide further evidence that Mac1 is a prominent target for anti-CoV therapeutics. IMPORTANCE In the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, there has been a surge to better understand how CoVs replicate and to identify potential therapeutic targets that could mitigate disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 and other prominent CoVs. The highly conserved macrodomain, also termed Mac1, is a small domain within nonstructural protein 3. It has received significant attention as a potential drug target, as previous studies demonstrated that it is essential for CoV pathogenesis in multiple animal models of infection. However, the functions of Mac1 during infection remain largely unknown. Here, using targeted mutations in different regions of Mac1, we found that Mac1 has multiple functions that promote the replication of MHV, a model CoV, and, therefore, is more important for MHV replication than previously appreciated. These results will help guide the discovery of these novel functions of Mac1 and the development of inhibitory compounds targeting this domain.

Keywords: ADP-ribose; ADP-ribosylation; MHV; NAD; PARP; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus; interferon; macrodomain; mouse hepatitis virus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / virology
  • Mice
  • Murine hepatitis virus / physiology*
  • Mutation, Missense*
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins* / genetics
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins* / metabolism
  • Virus Replication / genetics*


  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins