Characterisation of infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) polyprotein processing.
Vukea, Phillia Rixongile.
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Infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) is a birnavirus that infects the B-cells in the bursa of Fabricius of young chickens, causing Gumboro disease. The IBDV 114 kDa polyprotein (NH2-pVP2-VP4-VP3-COOH) is thought to be processed at 512Ala-Ala513 and 755Ala-Ala756 through the proteolytic activity of VP4, a serine protease which uses a Ser/Lys catalytic dyad, to release pVP2, VP4 and VP3. Precursor VP2 (pVP2) is further processed at its C-terminus to generate VP2 and structural peptides through the cleavage of the 441Ala-Phe442, 487Ala-Ala488, 494Ala-Ala495 and 501Ala-Ala502 peptide bonds to release VP2 and four structural peptides, pep46, pep7a, pep7b and pep11. While the processing at the 441Ala-Phe442 site was shown to be mediated by the endopeptidase activity of VP2, the processing at the other two sites is not well understood. The products resulting from the processing of the IBDV polyprotein were previously identified by anti-VP2 and anti-VP3 antibodies. The present study used anti-VP4 peptide antibodies to identify products resulting from the IBDV polyprotein processing. It was hypothesised that VP4 exists in two forms, the embedded form which exists as an integral part of the polyprotein and a mature form which is released after the processing. In order to characterise the two forms of VP4, six different fragments i.e. full-length polyprotein (Met1-Glu1012), truncated polyprotein (Ile227-Trp891), VP4-RA (Arg453-Ala755), VP4-RK (Arg453-Lys722), VP4-ΔVP3 (Ala513-Trp891, called VP4-AW for the sake of simplicity) and VP4-AA (Ala513-Ala755) were amplified from the IBDV dsRNA, cloned into a T-vector and sub-cloned into several expression vectors. The constructs were sequenced prior to expression. The sequence of the polyprotein coding region was used to determine the pathotype of the isolate used for viral dsRNA isolation. This isolate was from IBDV-infected bursae harvested from commercial chickens during an IBD outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in 1995, thus naming the isolate SA-KZN95. The comparison of the deduced amino acid sequence of SA-KZN95 polyprotein with 52 sequences of other IBDV strains highlighted 21 residues which could be molecular markers of different IBDV pathotypes. The residues of SA-KZN95 were identical to those of the Malaysian very virulent UPM94/273 strain. The constructs representing the embedded and mature forms of VP4 were recombinantly expressed. Processing was observed from the expression of the full-length polyprotein, truncated polyprotein, VP4-RA, VP4-RK and VP4-AW, but not from VP4-AA expression. The mutation of the Ser/Lys catalytic dyad in the full-length polyprotein, truncated polyprotein, VP4-RA, VP4-RK and VP4-AW, prevented processing thus verifying that the proteolytic activity was due to VP4. Anti-VP4 peptide antibodies were raised in chickens for the identification of the polyprotein cleavage products. The anti-VP4 peptide antibodies detected more cleavage products than expected from the polyprotein, suggesting that additional or different cleavage sites may be used. The characterisation of the cleavage products suggested that the processing for the release of VP4 occurs either at the 487Ala-Ala488 or the 512Ala-Ala513 site in a single polyprotein molecule. Ultimately, an IBDV polyprotein processing strategy that would explain the release of the additional products was proposed in the present study. The present study also illustrated the importance of Pro377 in the processing of the polyprotein where its replacement with Leu induced a prominent change in polyprotein processing. The mutation seemed to induce structural changes that may possibly affect the cleavage sites. Although no autocatalytic activity was observed during the expression of VP4-AA (mature form), it cleaved mutant VP4-RK in trans. It seemed to be active as a dimer on a gelatine gel but no activity was observed against a dialanyl fluorogenic peptide substrate. It also appeared to form peptidase-inhibitor complexes with anti-thrombin III. The present study also describes attempts to detect native VP4 in IBDV-infected bursa homogenates by anti-VP4 peptide antibodies on a western blot and by proteolytic activity determination on gelatine-containing SDS-PAGE gels. The findings of the study provide new information that may contribute to the development of anti-viral agents. These anti-viral agents may target polyprotein processing, capsid assembly and thus prevent virus replication during IBDV infection.