GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Immunology and Microbiology


Microbiology and Physiological Systems

First Thesis Advisor

Trudy Morrison, Ph.D.


Newcastle disease virus, Viral Structural Proteins, Viral Fusion Proteins, Virus Assembly, Virion, Chickens


The final step of paramyxovirus infection requires the assembly of viral structural components at the plasma membrane of infected cells followed by budding of virions. While the matrix (M) protein of some paramyxoviruses has been suggested to play a central role in the assembly and release of virus particles, the specific viral and host protein requirements are still unclear. Using Newcastle disease virus (NDV) as a prototype paramyxovirus, we explored the role of each of the NDV structural proteins in virion assembly and release. For these studies, we established a virus-like particle (VLP) system for NDV. The key viral proteins required for particle formation and the specific viral protein-protein interactions required for assembly and release of particles were explored in chapter 2. First we found that co-expression of all four proteins resulted in the release of VLPs with densities and efficiencies of release (1.18 to 1.16 g/cm3and 83.8%±1.1, respectively) similar to that of authentic virions. Expression of M protein alone, but not NP, F-K115Q or HN proteins individually, resulted in efficient VLP release. No combination of proteins in the absence of M protein resulted in particle release. Expression of any combination of proteins that included M protein yielded VLPs, although with different densities and efficiencies of release.

To address the roles of NP, F and HN proteins in VLP assembly, the interactions of proteins in VLPs formed with different combinations of viral proteins were characterized by co-immunoprecipitation. The co-localization of M protein with cell surface F and HN proteins in cells expressing all combinations of viral proteins was characterized. Taken together, the results show that M protein is necessary and sufficient for NDV budding. Furthermore, they suggest that M protein – HN protein and M protein - NP interactions are responsible for incorporation of HN protein and NP proteins into VLPs and that F protein is incorporated indirectly due to interactions with NP and HN protein.

Since the vacuolar protein sorting (VPS) system is involved in the release of several enveloped RNA viruses, chapter 3 describes studies which explored the role of the VPS system on NDV particle release. First, we characterized the effects of three dominant negative mutant proteins of the VPS pathway on particle release. Expression of dominant negative mutants of CHMP3, Vps4 and AIP1 proteins inhibited M protein particle release as well as release of complete VLPs. Mutation of a YANL sequence in the NDV M protein to AANA inhibited particle release while replacement of this sequence with either of the classical late domain motifs, PTAP or YPDL, completely restored particle release. The host protein AIP1, which binds YXXL late domain sequences, is incorporated into M protein particles. These results suggest that an intact VPS pathway is necessary for NDV VLP release and that the YANL sequence is an NDV M protein L domain.

The sequence and structure of the Newcastle disease virus (NDV) fusion (F) protein are consistent with its classification as a type 1 glycoprotein. We have previously reported, however, that F protein can be detected in at least two topological forms with respect to membranes in both a cell-free protein synthesizing system containing membranes as well as infected COS-7 cells (J. Virol. 2004 77:1951). One form is the classical type 1 glycoprotein while the other is a polytopic form in which approximately 200 amino acids of the amino terminal end as well as the cytoplasmic domain (CT) are translocated across membranes. Furthermore, we detected CT sequences on surfaces of F protein expressing cells and antibodies specific for these sequences inhibited red blood cell fusion to HN and F protein expressing cells suggesting a role for surface expressed CT sequences in cell-cell fusion. In chapter 4, we extended these findings and found that the alternate form of the F protein can also be detected in infected and transfected avian cells, the natural host cells of NDV. Furthermore, the alternate form of F protein was also found in virions released from both infected COS-7 cells and avian cells by Western analysis. Mass spectrometry confirmed its presence in virions released from avian cells. Two different polyclonal antibodies raised against sequences of the CT domain of the F protein slowed plaque formation in both avian and COS-7 cells. Antibody specific for the CT domain also inhibited single cycle infections as detected by immunofluorescence of viral proteins in infected cells. The potential roles of this alternate form of the NDV F protein in infection are discussed.

Virus-like particles (VLPs) generated from different viruses have been shown to have potential as good vaccines. Chapter 5 explored the potential of NDV VLPs as a vaccine for NDV or as a vaccine vector for human pathogens. Significant quantities of NDV VLPs can be produced from tissue culture cells. These VLPs are as pure as virions prepared in eggs. In addition, some rules for incorporation of viral proteins into VLPs were also explored. We found that the cytoplasmic domain of the fusion (F) protein is necessary for its incorporation into VLPs. We found that an HN protein with an HA tag at its carboxyl terminus was incorporated into VLPs. We also found that the HN and F proteins of NDV, strain B1, can be incorporated into VLPs with M and NP of strain AV. The demonstration of specific domains required for protein incorporation into particles is important in using NDV VLPs as a vaccine vector for important human pathogens.

In conclusion, this dissertation presents results that show that the M protein plays a central role in NDV assembly and release, a finding that is consistent with findings with other paramyxoviruses. More importantly, this work extends the current knowledge of paramyxovirus assembly and release by providing the first direct evidence of interactions between paramyxovirus proteins. These interactions between viral proteins provide a rational basis for incorporation of viral proteins into particles. This work also provides a clearer understanding of the role of the host vacuolar protein sorting machinery in NDV budding. A clear understanding of virus assembly and budding process contributes to the design of strategies for therapeutic intervention and in the development of safer, more economical and effective vaccines.



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