Key interplay between the co-opted sorting nexin-BAR proteins and PI3P phosphoinositide in the formation of the tombusvirus replicase

Zhike Feng, Nikolay Kovalev, Peter D. Nagy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Positive-strand RNA viruses replicate in host cells by forming large viral replication organelles, which harbor numerous membrane-bound viral replicase complexes (VRCs). In spite of its essential role in viral replication, the biogenesis of the VRCs is not fully understood. The authors identified critical roles of cellular membrane-shaping proteins and PI(3)P (phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate) phosphoinositide, a minor lipid with key functions in endosomal vesicle trafficking and autophagosome biogenesis, in VRC formation for tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV). The authors show that TBSV co-opts the endosomal SNX-BAR (sorting nexin with Bin/Amphiphysin/Rvs- BAR domain) proteins, which bind to PI(3)P and have membrane-reshaping function during retromer tubular vesicle formation, directly into the VRCs to boost progeny viral RNA synthesis. We find that the viral replication protein-guided recruitment and pro-viral function of the SNX-BAR proteins depends on enrichment of PI(3) P at the site of viral replication. Depletion of SNX-BAR proteins or PI(3)P renders the viral double-stranded (ds)RNA replication intermediate RNAi-sensitive within the VRCs in the surrogate host yeast and in planta and ribonuclease-sensitive in cell-free replicase reconstitution assays in yeast cell extracts or giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs). Based on our results, we propose that PI(3)P and the co-opted SNX-BAR proteins are coordinately exploited by tombusviruses to promote VRC formation and to play structural roles and stabilize the VRCs during viral replication. Altogether, the interplay between the co-opted SNX-BAR membrane-shaping proteins, PI(3)P and the viral replication proteins leads to stable VRCs, which provide the essential protection of the viral RNAs against the host antiviral responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009120
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 28 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Feng et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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