A eukaryotic cytosolic chaperonin is associated with a high molecular weight intermediate in the assembly of hepatitis B virus capsid, a multimeric particle.

Journal of Cell Biology, Volume 125 (1): 99-111, 1994

Lingappa JR, Martin RL, Wong ML, Ganem D, Welch WJ, Lingappa VR.

We have established a system for assembly of hepatitis B virus capsid, a homomultimer of the viral core polypeptide, using cell-free transcription-linked translation. The mature particles that are produced are indistinguishable from authentic viral capsids by four criteria: velocity sedimentation, buoyant density, protease resistance, and electron microscopic appearance. Production of unassembled core polypeptides can be uncoupled from production of capsid particles by decreasing core mRNA concentration. Addition of excess unlabeled core polypeptides allows the chase of the unassembled polypeptides into mature capsids. Using this cell-free system, we demonstrate that assembly of capsids proceeds by way of a novel high molecular weight intermediate. Upon isolation, the high molecular weight intermediate is productive of mature capsids when energy substrates are manipulated. A 60-kD protein related to the chaperonin t-complex polypeptide 1 (TCP-1) is found in association with core polypeptides in two different assembly intermediates, but is not associated with either the initial unassembled polypeptides or with the final mature capsid product. These findings implicate TCP-1 or a related chaperonin in viral assembly and raise the possibility that eukaryotic cytosolic chaperonins may play a distinctive role in multimer assembly apart from their involvement in assisting monomer folding.

A multistep, ATP-dependent pathway for assembly of human immunodeficiency virus capsids in a cell-free system.

Journal of Cell Biology, Volume 136 (3): 567-81, 1997

Lingappa JR, Hill RL, Wong ML, Hegde RS.

To understand the mechanism by which human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV) capsids are formed, we have reconstituted the assembly of immature HIV capsids de novo in a cell-free system. Capsid authenticity is established by multiple biochemical and morphologic criteria. Known features of the assembly process are closely reproduced, indicating the fidelity of the cell-free reaction. Assembly is separated into co- and posttranslational phases, and three independent posttranslational requirements are demonstrated: (a) ATP, (b) a detergent-sensitive host factor, and (c) a detergent-insensitive host subcellular fraction that can be depleted and reconstituted. Assembly appears to proceed by way of multiple intermediates whose conversion to completed capsids can be blocked by either ATP depletion or treatment with nondenaturing detergent. Specific subsets of these intermediates accumulate upon expression of various assembly-defective Gag mutants in the cell-free system, suggesting that each mutant is blocked at a particular step in assembly. Furthermore, the accumulation of complexes of similar sizes in cells expressing the corresponding mutants suggests that comparable intermediates may exist in vivo. From these data, we propose a multi-step pathway for the biogenesis of HIV capsids, in which the assembly process can be disrupted at a number of discrete points.

Identification of a host protein essential for assembly of immature HIV-1 capsids.

Nature. Volume 415 (6867): 88-92, 2002

Zimmerman C, Klein KC, Kiser PK, Singh AR, Firestein BL, Riba SC, Lingappa JR.

To form an immature HIV-1 capsid, 1,500 HIV-1 Gag (p55) polypeptides must assemble properly along the host cell plasma membrane. Insect cells and many higher eukaryotic cell types support efficient capsid assembly, but yeast and murine cells do not, indicating that host machinery is required for immature HIV-1 capsid formation. Additionally, in a cell-free system that reconstitutes HIV-1 capsid formation, post-translational assembly events require ATP and a subcellular fraction, suggesting a requirement for a cellular ATP-binding protein. Here we identify such a protein (HP68), described previously as an RNase L inhibitor, and demonstrate that it associates post-translationally with HIV-1 Gag in a cell-free system and human T cells infected with HIV-1. Using a dominant negative mutant of HP68 in mammalian cells and depletion-reconstitution experiments in the cell-free system, we demonstrate that HP68 is essential for post-translational events in immature HIV-1 capsid assembly. Furthermore, in cells the HP68-Gag complex is associated with HIV-1 Vif, which is involved in virion morphogenesis and infectivity. These findings support a critical role for HP68 in post-translational events of HIV-1 assembly and reveal a previously unappreciated dimension of host-viral interaction.

Conservation of a stepwise, energy-sensitive pathway involving HP68 for assembly of primate lentivirus capsids in cells.

Journal of Virology. Volume 78 (4): 1645-56, 2004 

Dooher JE, Lingappa JR.  

Previously we have described a stepwise, energy-dependent pathway for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) capsid assembly in a cell-free system. In this pathway, Gag polypeptides utilize the cellular factor HP68 and assemble into immature capsids by way of assembly intermediates that have defined biochemical characteristics. Here we address whether this pathway is universally conserved among primate lentiviruses and can be observed in mammalian cells. We demonstrate that HIV-2 Gag associates with human HP68 in a cell-free system and that Gag proteins of HIV-2, simian immunodeficiency virus SIVmac239, and SIVagm associate with endogenous HP68 in primate cells, as is seen for HIV-1. Analysis of primate cells expressing lentivirus Gag proteins revealed Gag-containing complexes with the same sedimentation values as seen for previously described HIV-1 assembly intermediates in the cell-free system (10S, 80-150S, and 500S). These complexes fit criteria for assembly intermediates as judged by energy sensitivity, pattern of HP68 association, and the failure of specific complexes to be formed by assembly-incompetent Gag mutants. We also demonstrate that virus-like particles released from cells do not appear to contain HP68, suggesting that HP68 is released from Gag upon completion of capsid assembly in cells, as was observed previously in the cell-free system. Together these findings support a model in which all primate lentivirus capsids assemble by a conserved pathway of HP68-containing, energy-dependent assembly intermediates that have specific biochemical features.

Unique features of hepatitis C virus capsid formation revealed by de novo cell-free assembly.

Journal of Virology. Volume 78 (17): 9257-69, 2004

Klein KC, Polyak SJ, Lingappa JR.

The assembly of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is poorly understood, largely due to the lack of mammalian cell culture systems that are easily manipulated and produce high titers of virus. This problem is highlighted by the inability of the recently established HCV replicon systems to support HCV capsid assembly despite high levels of structural protein synthesis. Here we demonstrate that up to 80% of HCV core protein synthesized de novo in cell-free systems containing rabbit reticulocyte lysate or wheat germ extracts assembles into HCV capsids. This contrasts with standard primate cell culture systems, in which almost no core assembles into capsids. Cell-free HCV capsids, which have a sedimentation value of approximately 100S, have a buoyant density (1.28 g/ml) on cesium chloride similar to that of HCV capsids from other systems. Capsids produced in cell-free systems are also indistinguishable from capsids isolated from HCV-infected patient serum when analyzed by transmission electron microscopy. Using these cell-free systems, we show that HCV capsid assembly is independent of signal sequence cleavage, is dependent on the N terminus but not the C terminus of HCV core, proceeds at very low nascent chain concentrations, is independent of intact membrane surfaces, and is partially inhibited by cultured liver cell lysates. By allowing reproducible and quantitative assessment of viral and cellular requirements for capsid formation, these cell-free systems make a mechanistic dissection of HCV capsid assembly possible.

Comparing capsid assembly of primate lentiviruses and hepatitis B virus using cell-free systems.

Virology. Volume 333 (1): 114-23, 2005

Lingappa JR, Newman MA, Klein KC, Dooher JE.

Many viruses that assemble their capsids in the eukaryotic cytoplasm require a threshold concentration of capsid protein to achieve capsid assembly. Strategies for achieving this include maintaining high levels of capsid protein synthesis and targeting to specific sites to raise the effective concentration of capsid polypeptides. To understand how different viruses achieve the threshold capsid protein concentration required for assembly, we used cell-free systems to compare capsid assembly of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and three primate lentiviruses. Capsid formation of these diverse viruses in a common eukaryotic extract was dependent on capsid protein concentration. HBV capsid assembly was also dependent on the presence of intact membrane surfaces. Surprisingly, not all of the primate lentiviral capsid proteins examined required myristoylation and intact membranes for assembly, even though all contain a myristoylation signal. These findings reveal significant diversity in how different capsid proteins assemble in the same cellular extract.

Host ABCE1 is at plasma membrane HIV assembly sites and its dissociation from Gag is linked to subsequent events of virus production.

Traffic. Volume 8 (3): 195-211, 2007

Dooher JE, Schneider BL, Reed JC, Lingappa JR.

In primate cells, assembly of a single HIV-1 capsid involves multimerization of thousands of Gag polypeptides, typically at the plasma membrane. Although studies support a model in which HIV-1 assembly proceeds through complexes containing Gag and the cellular adenosine triphosphatase ABCE1 (also termed HP68 or ribonuclease L inhibitor), whether these complexes constitute true assembly intermediates remains controversial. Here we demonstrate by pulse labeling in primate cells that a population of Gag associates with endogenous ABCE1 within minutes of translation. In the next approximately 2 h, Gag-ABCE1 complexes increase in size to approximately that of immature capsids. Dissociation of ABCE1 from Gag correlates closely with Gag processing during virion maturation and occurs much less efficiently when the HIV-1 protease is inactivated. Finally, quantitative double-label immunogold electron microscopy reveals that ABCE1 is recruited to sites of assembling wild-type Gag at the plasma membrane but not to sites of an assembly-defective Gag mutant at the plasma membrane. Together these findings demonstrate that a population of Gag present at plasma membrane sites of assembly associates with ABCE1 throughout capsid formation until the onset of virus maturation, which is then followed by virus release. Moreover, the data suggest a linkage between Gag-ABCE1 dissociation and subsequent events of virion production.


HIV-1 Gag co-opts a cellular complex containing DDX6, a helicase that facilitates capsid assembly.

J Cell Biol. Volume 198 (3): 439-56, 2012

Reed JC, Molter B, Geary CD, McNevin J, McElrath J, Giri S, Klein KC, Lingappa JR.

To produce progeny virus, human immunodeficiency virus type I (HIV-1) Gag assembles into capsids that package the viral genome and bud from the infected cell. During assembly of immature capsids, Gag traffics through a pathway of assembly intermediates (AIs) that contain the cellular adenosine triphosphatase ABCE1 (ATP-binding cassette protein E1). In this paper, we showed by coimmunoprecipitation and immunoelectron microscopy (IEM) that these Gag-containing AIs also contain endogenous processing body (PB)-related proteins, including AGO2 and the ribonucleic acid (RNA) helicase DDX6. Moreover, we found a similar complex containing ABCE1 and PB proteins in uninfected cells. Additionally, knockdown and rescue studies demonstrated that the RNA helicase DDX6 acts enzymatically to facilitate capsid assembly independent of RNA packaging. Using IEM, we localized the defect in DDX6-depleted cells to Gag multimerization at the plasma membrane. We also confirmed that DDX6 depletion reduces production of infectious HIV-1 from primary human T cells. Thus, we propose that assembling HIV-1 co-opts a preexisting host complex containing cellular facilitators such as DDX6, which the virus uses to catalyze capsid assembly.


Host-rabies virus protein-protein interactions as druggable antiviral targets.

PNAS. Volume 110 (10): E861-8, 2013

Lingappa UF, Wu X, Macieik A, Yu SF, Atuegbu A, Corpuz M, Francis J, Nichols C, Calayag A, Shi H, Ellison JA, Harrell EK, Asundi V, Lingappa JR, Prasad MD, Lipkin WI, Dey D, Hurt CR, Lingappa VR, Hansen WJ, Rupprecht CE.

We present an unconventional approach to antiviral drug discovery, which is used to identify potent small molecules against rabies virus. First, we conceptualized viral capsid assembly as occurring via a host-catalyzed biochemical pathway, in contrast to the classical view of capsid formation by self-assembly. This suggested opportunities for antiviral intervention by targeting previously unappreciated catalytic host proteins, which were pursued. Second, we hypothesized these host proteins to be components of heterogeneous, labile, and dynamic multi-subunit assembly machines, not easily isolated by specific target protein-focused methods. This suggested the need to identify active compounds before knowing the precise protein target. A cell-free translation-based small molecule screen was established to recreate the hypothesized interactions involving newly synthesized capsid proteins as host assembly machine substrates. Hits from the screen were validated by efficacy against infectious rabies virus in mammalian cell culture. Used as affinity ligands, advanced analogs were shown to bind a set of proteins that effectively reconstituted drug sensitivity in the cell-free screen and included a small but discrete subfraction of cellular ATP-binding cassette family E1 (ABCE1), a host protein previously found essential for HIV capsid formation. Taken together, these studies advance an alternate view of capsid formation (as a host-catalyzed biochemical pathway), a different paradigm for drug discovery (whole pathway screening without knowledge of the target), and suggest the existence of labile assembly machines that can be rendered accessible as next-generation drug targets by the means described.


Capsid assembly as a point of intervention for novel anti-viral therapeutics.

Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. 2013;14(5):513-23.

Lingappa VR, Hurt CR, Garvey E1

In general, drug discovery in the therapeutic field of infectious disease has a stellar track record. And yet, subsets of pathogens, for example many classes of viruses other than HIV, HSV, influenza, and HCV, have been poorly addressed. In addition, the development of resistance remains a specter of great concern for almost all current chemotherapy directed against infectious diseases, including viruses. Within the viral lifecycle, capsid assembly stands out as a step occurring in all viruses, which has not been the subject of extensive drug discovery programs. Until recently, the common view of assembly was that all the necessary information for assembly was contained in the sequence of the viral protein, in other words, the capsid self-assembles. In the last few years, a body of data has opened new opportunities for antiviral pharmaceutical research. Evidence that host proteins may play catalytic or essential structural roles in viral capsid assembly suggests that these host proteins and their functions are novel targets for small molecule therapeutics. Here we review the current understanding of the capsid assembly process with emphasis on recent data that demonstrate the essential role of host proteins in capsid assembly. Furthermore, this dependency of assembly on host factors appears quite sensitive to small molecule intervention. Implications of this alternate mechanism of capsid assembly are also considered. For example, the dependency on host factors could impose a potent barrier to development of viral resistance to a host-targeted anti-capsid chemotherapeutic. Finally, we give specific examples of the current state of drug discovery programs that have focused on therapeutic inhibition of host-assisted viral capsid assembly.


A temporospatial map that defines specific steps at which critical surfaces in the Gag MA and CA domains act during immature HIV-1 capsid assembly in cells.

Journal of Virology. Volume 88 (10): 5718-41, 2014

Robinson BA, Reed JC, Geary CD, Swain JV, Lingappa JR.

During HIV-1 assembly, Gag polypeptides target to the plasma membrane, where they multimerize to form immature capsids that undergo budding and maturation. Previous mutational analyses identified residues within the Gag matrix (MA) and capsid (CA) domains that are required for immature capsid assembly, and structural studies showed that these residues are clustered on four exposed surfaces in Gag. Exactly when and where the three critical surfaces in CA function during assembly are not known. Here, we analyzed how mutations in these four critical surfaces affect the formation and stability of assembly intermediates in cells expressing the HIV-1 provirus. The resulting temporospatial map reveals that critical MA residues act during membrane targeting, residues in the C-terminal CA subdomain (CA-CTD) dimer interface are needed for the stability of the first membrane-bound assembly intermediate, CA-CTD base residues are necessary for progression past the first membrane-bound intermediate, and residues in the N-terminal CA subdomain (CA-NTD) stabilize the last membrane-bound intermediate. Importantly, we found that all four critical surfaces act while Gag is associated with the cellular facilitators of assembly ABCE1 and DDX6. When correlated with existing structural data, our findings suggest the following model: Gag dimerizes via the CA-CTD dimer interface just before or during membrane targeting, individual CA-CTD hexamers form soon after membrane targeting, and the CA-NTD hexameric lattice forms just prior to capsid release. This model adds an important new dimension to current structural models by proposing the potential order in which key contacts within the immature capsid lattice are made during assembly in cells.


How HIV-1 Gag assembles in cells: Putting together pieces of the puzzle.

Virus Research. Volume 193: 89-107, 2014

Lingappa JR, Reed JC, Tanaka M, Chutiraka K, Robinson BA.

During the late stage of the viral life cycle, HIV-1 Gag assembles into a spherical immature capsid, and undergoes budding, release, and maturation. Here we review events involved in immature capsid assembly from the perspective of five different approaches used to study this process: mutational analysis, structural studies, assembly of purified recombinant Gag, assembly of newly translated Gag in a cell-free system, and studies in cells using biochemical and imaging techniques. We summarize key findings obtained using each approach, point out where there is consensus, and highlight unanswered questions. Particular emphasis is placed on reconciling data suggesting that Gag assembles by two different paths, depending on the assembly environment. Specifically, in assembly systems that lack cellular proteins, high concentrations of Gag can spontaneously assemble using purified nucleic acid as a scaffold. However, in the more complex intracellular environment, barriers that limit self-assembly are present in the form of cellular proteins, organelles, host defenses, and the absence of free nucleic acid. To overcome these barriers and promote efficient immature capsid formation in an unfavorable environment, Gag appears to utilize an energy-dependent, host-catalyzed, pathway of assembly intermediates in cells. Overall, we show how data obtained using a variety of techniques has led to our current understanding of HIV assembly.


Viral capsid assembly as a model for protein aggregation diseases: Active processes catalyzed by cellular assembly machines comprising novel drug targets.

Virus Research. Volume 207: 155-64, 2015

Marreiros RMüller-Schiffmann ABader VSelvarajah SDey DLingappa VRKorth C.

Viruses can be conceptualized as self-replicating multiprotein assemblies, containing coding nucleic acids. Viruses have evolved to exploit host cellular components including enzymes to ensure their replicative life cycle. New findings indicate that also viral capsid proteins recruit host factors to accelerate their assembly. These assembly machines are RNA-containing multiprotein complexes whose composition is governed by allosteric sites. In the event of viral infection, the assembly machines are recruited to support the virus over the host and are modified to achieve that goal. Stress granules and processing bodies may represent collections of such assembly machines, readily visible by microscopy but biochemically labile and difficult to isolate by fractionation. We hypothesize that the assembly of protein multimers such as encountered in neurodegenerative or other protein conformational diseases, is also catalyzed by assembly machines. In the case of viralinfection, the assembly machines have been modified by the virus to meet the virus' need for rapid capsid assembly rather than host homeostasis. In the case of the neurodegenerative diseases, it is the monomers and/or low n oligomers of the so-called aggregated proteins that are substrates of assembly machines. Examples for substrates are amyloid β peptide (Aβ) and tau in Alzheimer's disease, α-synuclein in Parkinson's disease, prions in the prion diseases, Disrupted-in-schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) in subsets of chronic mental illnesses, and others. A likely continuum between virus capsid assembly and cell-to-cell transmissibility of aggregated proteins is remarkable. Proteinaggregation diseases may represent dysfunction and dysregulation of these assembly machines analogous to the aberrations induced by viral infection in which cellular homeostasis is pathologically reprogrammed. In this view, as for viral infection, reset of assembly machinesto normal homeostasis should be the goal of protein aggregation therapeutics. A key basis for the commonality between viral and neurodegenerative disease aggregation is a broader definition of assembly as more than just simple aggregation, particularly suited for the crowded cytoplasm. The assembly machines are collections of proteins that catalytically accelerate an assembly reaction that would occur spontaneously but too slowly to be relevant in vivo. Being an enzyme complex with a functional allosteric site, appropriated for a non-physiological purpose (e.g. viral infection or conformational disease), these assembly machines present a superior pharmacological target because inhibition of their active site will amplify an effect on their substrate reaction. Here, we present this hypothesis based on recent proof-of-principle studies against Aβ assembly relevant in Alzheimer's disease.