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Preparation by alkaline treatment and detailed characterisation of empty hepatitis B virus core particles for vaccine and gene therapy applications

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      Abstract

      Hepatitis B virus (HBV) core (HBc) virus-like particles (VLPs) are one of the most powerful protein engineering tools utilised to expose immunological epitopes and/or cell-targeting signals and for the packaging of genetic material and immune stimulatory sequences. Although HBc VLPs and their numerous derivatives are produced in highly efficient bacterial and yeast expression systems, the existing purification and packaging protocols are not sufficiently optimised and standardised. Here, a simple alkaline treatment method was employed for the complete removal of internal RNA from bacteria- and yeast-produced HBc VLPs and for the conversion of these VLPs into empty particles, without any damage to the VLP structure. The empty HBc VLPs were able to effectively package the added DNA and RNA sequences. Furthermore, the alkaline hydrolysis technology appeared efficient for the purification and packaging of four different HBc variants carrying lysine residues on the HBc VLP spikes. Utilising the introduced lysine residues and the intrinsic aspartic and glutamic acid residues exposed on the tips of the HBc spikes for chemical coupling of the chosen peptide and/or nucleic acid sequences ensured a standard and easy protocol for the further development of versatile HBc VLP-based vaccine and gene therapy applications.

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      The crystal structure of the human hepatitis B virus capsid.

      Hepatitis B is a small enveloped DNA virus that poses a major hazard to human health. The crystal structure of the T = 4 capsid has been solved at 3.3 A resolution, revealing a largely helical protein fold that is unusual for icosahedral viruses. The monomer fold is stabilized by a hydrophobic core that is highly conserved among human viral variants. Association of two amphipathic alpha-helical hairpins results in formation of a dimer with a four-helix bundle as the major central feature. The capsid is assembled from dimers via interactions involving a highly conserved region near the C terminus of the truncated protein used for crystallization. The major immunodominant region lies at the tips of the alpha-helical hairpins that form spikes on the capsid surface.
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        Three-dimensional structure of hepatitis B virus core particles determined by electron cryomicroscopy.

        Human hepatitis B virus core protein expressed in E. coli assembles into two sizes of particle. We have determined their three-dimensional structures by electron cryomicroscopy and image processing. The large and small particles correspond to triangulation number T = 4 and T = 3 dimer clustered packings, containing 240 and 180 protein subunits, respectively. The local packing of subunits is very similar in the two sizes of particle and shows holes or channels through the shell. The native viral core particle packages RNA and is active in reverse transcription to DNA. The holes we observe may provide access for the necessary small molecules. Shells assembled from the intact core protein contain additional material, probably RNA, which appears as an icosahedrally ordered inner shell in the three-dimensional map.
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          Structure of the Lassa virus nucleoprotein reveals a dsRNA-specific 3' to 5' exonuclease activity essential for immune suppression.

          Lassa fever virus, a member of the family Arenaviridae, is a highly endemic category A pathogen that causes 300,000-500,000 infections per year in Western Africa. The arenaviral nucleoprotein NP has been implicated in suppression of the host innate immune system, but the mechanism by which this occurs has remained elusive. Here we present the crystal structure at 1.5 Å of the immunosuppressive C-terminal portion of Lassa virus NP and illustrate that, unexpectedly, its 3D fold closely mimics that of the DEDDh family of exonucleases. Accompanying biochemical experiments illustrate that NP indeed has a previously unknown, bona fide exonuclease activity, with strict specificity for double-stranded RNA substrates. We further demonstrate that this exonuclease activity is essential for the ability of NP to suppress translocation of IFN regulatory factor 3 and block activation of the innate immune system. Thus, the nucleoprotein is a viral exonuclease with anti-immune activity, and this work provides a unique opportunity to combat arenaviral infections.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre , Ratsupites Str. 1 k-1, LV-1067, Riga, Latvia
            Author notes
            Journal
            Sci Rep
            Sci Rep
            Scientific Reports
            Nature Publishing Group
            2045-2322
            26 June 2015
            2015
            : 5
            26113394
            4650659
            srep11639
            10.1038/srep11639
            Copyright © 2015, Macmillan Publishers Limited

            This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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