Publications by authors named "Easwaran Sreekumar"

20 Publications

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Targeting cap-dependent translation to inhibit Chikungunya virus replication: selectivity of p38 MAPK inhibitors to virus-infected cells due to autophagy-mediated down regulation of phospho-ERK.

J Gen Virol 2021 07;102(7)

Molecular Virology Laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thiruvananthapuram 695014, Kerala, India.

The 5' capped, message-sense RNA genome of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) utilizes the host cell machinery for translation. Translation is regulated by eIF2 alpha at the initiation phase and by eIF4F at cap recognition. Translational suppression by eIF2 alpha phosphorylation occurs as an early event in many alphavirus infections. We observe that in CHIKV-infected HEK293 cells, this occurs as a late event, by which time the viral replication has reached an exponential phase, implying its minimal role in virus restriction. The regulation by eIF4F is mediated through the PI3K-Akt-mTOR, p38 MAPK and RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK pathways. A kinetic analysis revealed that CHIKV infection did not modulate AKT phosphorylation, but caused a significant reduction in p38 MAPK phosphorylation. It caused degradation of phospho-ERK 1/2 by increased autophagy, leaving the PI3K-Akt-mTOR and p38 MAPK pathways for pharmacological targeting. mTOR inhibition resulted in moderate reduction in viral titre, but had no effect on CHIKV E2 protein expression, indicating a minimal role of the mTOR complex in virus replication. Inhibition of p38 MAPK using SB202190 caused a significant reduction in viral titre and CHIKV E2 and nsP3 protein expression. Furthermore, inhibiting the two pathways together did not offer any synergism, indicating that inhibiting the p38 MAPK pathway alone is sufficient to cause restriction of CHIKV replication. Meanwhile, in uninfected cells the fully functional RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK pathway can circumvent the effect of p38 MAPK inhibition on cap-dependent translation. Thus, our results show that host-directed antiviral strategies targeting cellular p38 MAPK are worth exploring against Chikungunya as they could be selective against CHIKV-infected cells with minimal effects on uninfected host cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1099/jgv.0.001629DOI Listing
July 2021

Binding of alpha-fodrin to gamma-tubulin accounts for its role in the inhibition of microtubule nucleation.

FEBS Lett 2019 06 17;593(11):1154-1165. Epub 2019 May 17.

Cancer Research Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Trivandrum, India.

Non-erythroid spectrin or fodrin is present as part of the γ-tubulin ring complex (γ-TuRC) in brain tissue and brain derived cells. Here, we show that fodrin, which is otherwise known for providing structural support to the cell membrane, interacts directly with γ-tubulin within the γ-TuRC through a GRIP2-like motif. Turbidometric analysis of microtubule polymerization with nucleation-potent γ-TuRC isolated from HEK-293 cells that lack fodrin and the γ-TuRC from goat brain that contains fodrin shows inefficiency of the latter to promote nucleation. The involvement of fodrin was confirmed by the reduction in the microtubule polymerization efficiency of HEK-293 derived γ-TuRCs upon addition of purified brain fodrin. Thus, the interaction of fodrin with gamma-tubulin is responsible for its inhibitory effect on γ-tubulin mediated microtubule nucleation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1873-3468.13425DOI Listing
June 2019

Dengue virus or NS1 protein induces trans-endothelial cell permeability associated with VE-Cadherin and RhoA phosphorylation in HMEC-1 cells preventable by Angiopoietin-1.

J Gen Virol 2018 12 24;99(12):1658-1670. Epub 2018 Oct 24.

Molecular Virology laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thiruvananthapuram-695014, Kerala, India.

A transient increase in trans-endothelial cell permeability in dengue patients leads to vascular leakage and shock syndrome. Here, we analysed the molecular mechanisms that cause permeability changes in human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1) using a direct dengue virus (DENV) infection model or treatment with NS1, a secreted DENV non-structural protein. In HMEC-1 cells, both treatments increase permeability with a concordant increase in the secretion of angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2). There is phosphorylation and loss of the junction protein VE-Cadherin from the inter-endothelial cell junctions and phosphorylation of RhoA. Direct virus infection results in activation of Src by phosphorylation, whereas NS1 treatment alone does not lead to Src activation. Furthermore, treatment with recombinant Ang-1, a physiological antagonist of Ang-2, prevents Ang-2 release, VE-Cadherin phosphorylation and internalization, and phosphorylation of RhoA and Src, resulting in restoration of barrier function. The permeability increase could also be prevented by blocking the Ang1/2 signalling receptor, Tie-2, or using a Rho/ROCK-specific inhibitor. Dasatinib, a Src-family kinase (SFK) inhibitor that inhibits Src phosphorylation, prevents enhanced permeability induced by direct DENV infection whereas in NS1 protein-treated cells its effect is less significant. The results provide important insights on the mechanisms of increased trans-endothelial permeability in DENV infection, and suggest the therapeutic potential of using recombinant Ang-1 or targeting these key molecules to prevent vascular leakage in dengue.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1099/jgv.0.001163DOI Listing
December 2018

Preparation of Recombinant Alphaviruses for Functional Studies of ADP-Ribosylation.

Methods Mol Biol 2018 ;1813:297-316

Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Recently we characterized the mono(ADP-ribosyl) hydrolase (MAR hydrolase) activity of the macrodomain of nonstructural protein 3 (nsP3) of chikungunya virus. Using recombinant viruses with targeted mutations in the macrodomain, we demonstrated that hydrolase function is important for viral replication in cultured neuronal cells and for neurovirulence in mice. Here, we describe the general cell culture and animal model infection protocols for alphaviruses and the technical details for biochemical characterization of the MAR hydrolase activity of nsP3 mutants and the preparation of recombinant viruses incorporating those mutations through site-directed mutagenesis of an infectious cDNA virus clone.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-8588-3_21DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6382469PMC
March 2019

Sphingolipid signaling modulates trans-endothelial cell permeability in dengue virus infected HMEC-1 cells.

Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat 2018 05 4;136:44-54. Epub 2018 May 4.

Molecular Virology laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thycaud P.O., Thiruvananthapuram, 695014, Kerala, India. Electronic address:

Dengue has emerged as a major mosquito-borne disease in the tropics and subtropics. In severe dengue, enhanced microvascular endothelial permeability leads to plasma leakage. Direct dengue virus (DENV) infection in human microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1) can enhance trans-endothelial leakage. Using a microarray-based analysis, we identified modulation of key endothelial cell signaling pathways in DENV-infected HMEC-1 cells. One among them was the sphingolipid pathway that regulates vascular barrier function. Sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 2 (S1PR2) and S1PR5 showed significant up-regulation in the microarray data. In DENV-infected cells, the kinetics of S1PR2 transcript expression and enhanced in vitro trans-endothelial permeability showed a correlation. We also observed an internalization and cytoplasmic translocation of VE-Cadherin, a component of adherens junctions (AJ), upon infection indicating AJ disassembly. Further, inhibition of S1PR2 signaling by a specific pharmacological inhibitor prevented translocation of VE-Cadherin, thus helping AJ maintenance, and abrogated DENV-induced trans-endothelial leakage. Our results show that sphingolipid signaling, especially that involving S1PR2, plays a critical role in vascular leakage in dengue.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prostaglandins.2018.05.001DOI Listing
May 2018

Interferon regulated gene (IRG) expression-signature in a mouse model of chikungunya virus neurovirulence.

J Neurovirol 2017 Dec 24;23(6):886-902. Epub 2017 Oct 24.

Molecular Virology Laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thycaud P.O., Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, 695014, India.

Interferon regulated genes (IRGs) are critical in controlling virus infections. Here, we analyzed the expression profile of IRGs in the brain tissue in a mouse model of chikungunya virus (CHIKV) neurovirulence. Neurovirulence is one of the newer complications identified in disease caused by re-emerging strains of CHIKV, an alphavirus with positive-strand RNA in the Togaviridae family. In microarray analysis, we identified significant upregulation of 269 genes, out of which a predominant percentage (76%) was IRGs. The highly modulated IRGs included Ifit1, Ifi44, Ddx60, Usp18, Stat1, Rtp4, Mnda, Gbp3, Gbp4, Gbp7, Oasl2, Oas1g, Ly6a, Igtp, and Gbp10, along with many others exhibiting lesser changes in expression levels. We found that these IRG mRNA transcripts are modulated in parallel across CHIKV-infected mouse brain tissues, human neuronal cell line IMR-32 and hepatic cell line Huh-7. The genes identified to be highly modulated both in mouse brain and human neuronal cells were Ifit1, Ifi44, Ddx60, Usp18, and Mnda. In Huh-7 cells, however, only two IRGs (Gbp4 and Gbp7) showed a similar level of upregulation. Concordant modulation of IRGs in both mice and human cells indicates that they might play important roles in regulating CHIKV replication in the central nervous system (CNS). The induction of several IRGs in CNS during infection underscores the robustness of IRG-mediated innate immune response in CHIKV restriction. Further studies on these IRGs would help in evolving possibilities for their targeting in host-directed therapeutic interventions against CHIKV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13365-017-0583-3DOI Listing
December 2017

Nucleophosmin (NPM1)/B23 in the Proteome of Human Astrocytic Cells Restricts Chikungunya Virus Replication.

J Proteome Res 2017 11 10;16(11):4144-4155. Epub 2017 Oct 10.

Molecular Virology Laboratory and ‡Proteomics Core Facility, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) , Thiruvananthapram 695014, Kerala, India.

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), a positive-stranded RNA virus, can cause neurological complications by infecting the major parenchymal cells of the brain such as neurons and astrocytes. A proteomic analysis of CHIKV-infected human astrocytic cell line U-87 MG revealed tight functional associations among the modulated proteins. The predominant cellular pathways involved were of transcription-translation machinery, cytoskeletol reorganization, apoptosis, ubiquitination, and metabolism. In the proteome, we could also identify a few proteins that are reported to be involved in host-virus interactions. One such protein, Nucleophosmin (NPM1)/B23, a nucleolar protein, showed enhanced cytoplasmic aggregation in CHIKV-infected cells. NPM1 aggregation was predominantly localized in areas wherein CHIKV antigen could be detected. Furthermore, we observed that inhibition of this aggregation using a specific NPM1 oligomerization inhibitor, NSC348884, caused a significant dose-dependent enhancement in virus replication. There was a marked increase in the amount of intracellular viral RNA, and ∼10-fold increase in progeny virions in infected cells. Our proteomic analysis provides a comprehensive spectrum of host proteins modulated in response to CHIKV infection in astrocytic cells. Our results also show that NPM1/B23, a multifunctional chaperone, plays a critical role in restricting CHIKV replication and is a possible target for antiviral strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jproteome.7b00513DOI Listing
November 2017

Comparative whole genome analysis of dengue virus serotype-2 strains differing in trans-endothelial cell leakage induction in vitro.

Infect Genet Evol 2017 08 27;52:34-43. Epub 2017 Apr 27.

Molecular Virology Laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thycaud P.O., Thiruvananthapuram 695014, Kerala, India. Electronic address:

The role of genetic differences among dengue virus (DENV) in causing increased microvascular permeability is less explored. In the present study, we compared two closely related DENV serotype-2 strains of Cosmopolitan genotype for their in vitro infectivity phenotype and ability to induce trans-endothelial leakage. We found that these laboratory strains differed significantly in infecting human microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1) and hepatocytes (Huh7), two major target cells of DENV in in vivo infections. There was a reciprocal correlation in infectivity and vascular leakage induced by these strains, with the less infective strain inducing more trans-endothelial cell leakage in HMEC-1 monolayer upon infection. The cells infected with the strain capable of inducing more permeability were found to secrete more Non-Structural protein (sNS1) into the culture supernatant. A whole genome analysis revealed 37 predicted amino acid changes and changes in the secondary structure of 3' non-translated region between the strains. But none of these changes involved the signal sequence coded by the C-terminal of the Envelope protein and the two glycosylation sites within the NS1 protein critical for its secretion, and the N-terminal NS2A sequence important for surface targeting of NS1. The strain that secreted lower levels of NS1 and caused less leakage had two mutations within the NS1 protein coding region, F103S and T146I that significantly changed amino acid properties. A comparison of the sequences of the two strains with published sequences of various DENV strains known to cause clinically severe dengue identified a number of amino acid changes which could be implicated as possible key genetic differences. Our data supports the earlier observations that the vascular leakage induction potential of DENV strains is linked to the sNS1 levels. The results also indicate that viral genetic determinants, especially the mutations within the NS1 coding region, could affect this critical phenotype of DENV strains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2017.04.022DOI Listing
August 2017

ADP-ribosylhydrolase activity of Chikungunya virus macrodomain is critical for virus replication and virulence.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 02 31;114(7):1666-1671. Epub 2017 Jan 31.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205;

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), an Old World alphavirus, is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes and causes acute rash and arthritis, occasionally complicated by neurologic disease and chronic arthritis. One determinant of alphavirus virulence is nonstructural protein 3 (nsP3) that contains a highly conserved MacroD-type macrodomain at the N terminus, but the roles of nsP3 and the macrodomain in virulence have not been defined. Macrodomain is a conserved protein fold found in several plus-strand RNA viruses that binds to the small molecule ADP-ribose. Prototype MacroD-type macrodomains also hydrolyze derivative linkages on the distal ribose ring. Here, we demonstrated that the CHIKV nsP3 macrodomain is able to hydrolyze ADP-ribose groups from mono(ADP-ribosyl)ated proteins. Using mass spectrometry, we unambiguously defined its substrate specificity as mono(ADP-ribosyl)ated aspartate and glutamate but not lysine residues. Mutant viruses lacking hydrolase activity were unable to replicate in mammalian BHK-21 cells or mosquito cells and rapidly reverted catalytically inactivating mutations. Mutants with reduced enzymatic activity had slower replication in mammalian neuronal cells and reduced virulence in 2-day-old mice. Therefore, nsP3 mono(ADP-ribosyl)hydrolase activity is critical for CHIKV replication in both vertebrate hosts and insect vectors, and for virulence in mice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1621485114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5321000PMC
February 2017

Re-emergence of dengue virus serotype 2 strains in the 2013 outbreak in Nepal.

Indian J Med Res 2015 Dec;142 Suppl:S1-6

Central Department of Biotechnology, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Background & Objectives: Epidemiological interventions and mosquito control are the available measures for dengue control. The former approach uses serotype and genetic information on the circulating virus strains. Dengue has been frequently reported from Nepal, but this information is mostly lacking. The present study was done to generate a comprehensive clinical and virological picture of a dengue outbreak in Nepal during 2013.

Methods: A hospital-based study involving patients from five districts of Nepal was carried out. Demographic information, clinical details and dengue serological status were obtained. Viral RNA was characterized at the molecular level by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), nucleotide sequencing and phylogenetic analysis.

Results: From among the 2340 laboratory-confirmed dengue cases during the study period, 198 patients consented for the study. Clinically they had fever (100%), headache (59.1%), rashes (18.2%), retro-orbital pain (30.3%), vomiting (15.1%), joint pain (28.8%) and thrombocytopenia (74.3%). Fifteen (7.5%) of them had mucosal bleeding manifestations, and the rest were uncomplicated dengue fever. The patients were mostly adults with a mean age of 45.75 ± 38.61 yr. Of the 52 acute serum samples tested, 15 were positive in RT-PCR. The causative virus was identified as DENV serotype 2 belonging to the Cosmopolitan genotype.

Interpretations & Conclusions: We report here the involvement of DENV serotype 2 in an outbreak in Nepal in 2013. Earlier outbreaks in the region in 2010 were attributed to serotype 1 virus. As serotype shifts are frequently associated with secondary infections and severe disease, there is a need for enhancing surveillance especially in the monsoon and post-monsoon periods to prevent large-scale, severe dengue outbreaks in the region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4103/0971-5916.176564DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4795338PMC
December 2015

Correlation of phylogenetic clade diversification and in vitro infectivity differences among Cosmopolitan genotype strains of Chikungunya virus.

Infect Genet Evol 2016 Jan 27;37:174-84. Epub 2015 Nov 27.

Molecular Virology Laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thycaud P.O., Thiruvananthapuram 695014, Kerala, India. Electronic address:

Cosmopolitan genotypes of Chikungunya virus caused the large-scale febrile disease outbreaks in the last decade in Asian and African continents. Molecular analyses of these strains had revealed significant genetic diversification and occurrence of novel mosquito-adaptive mutations. In the present study we looked into whether the genetic diversification has implications in the infectivity phenotype. A detailed sequence and phylogenetic analyses of these virus strains of Indian Ocean lineage from Kerala, South India from the years 2008 to 2013 identified three distinct genetic clades (I, II and III), which had presence of clade-specific amino acid changes. The E2 envelope protein of the strains from the years 2012 to 2013 had a K252Q or a novel K252H change. This site is reported to affect mosquito cell infectivity. Most of these strains also had the E2 G82R mutation, a mutation previously identified to increase mammalian cell infectivity, and a novel mutation E2 N72S. Positive selection was identified in four sites in the envelope proteins (E1 K211E, A226V and V291I; E2 K252Q/H). In infectivity analysis, we found that strains from clade III had enhanced cytopathogenicity in HEK293 and Vero cells than by strains representing other two clades. These two strains formed smaller sized plaques and had distinctly higher viral protein expression, infectious virus production and apoptosis induction in HEK293 cells. They had novel mutations R171Q in the nsP1; I539S in nsP2; N409T in nsP3; and N72S in E2. Our study identifies a correlation between phylogenetic clade diversification and differences in mammalian cell infectivity phenotype among Cosmopolitan genotype CHIKV strains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2015.11.019DOI Listing
January 2016

Phylogenetic study reveals co-circulation of Asian II and Cosmopolitan genotypes of Dengue virus serotype 2 in Nepal during 2013.

Infect Genet Evol 2015 Aug 6;34:402-9. Epub 2015 Jul 6.

Molecular Virology Laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thycaud P.O., Thiruvananthapuram 695014, Kerala, India. Electronic address:

The re-emergence of dengue virus in Nepal and the recent widespread disease epidemics of unprecedented magnitude have raised a great public health concern. There are very few reports on Dengue virus (DENV) strains circulating in the country, especially at the molecular phylogenetics level. In this study, clinical samples from an outbreak in Nepal in 2013, which were positive for DENV serotype 2, were characterized by targeted genome sequencing. Envelope protein (E) coding region from fifteen samples were sequenced and compared with DENV-2 sequences of strains from different geographic regions obtained from the GenBank. Compared to the prototype New Guinea C strain, the samples had a total of eleven non-synonymous substitutions in the envelope protein coding region leading to amino acid change at positions 47, 52, 71, 126, 129, 149, 164, 390, 402, 454 and 462. However, none of these sites were found to be positively selected. A major observation was the presence of two distinct genotypes (Cosmopolitan Genotype IVa and Asian II) in the outbreak as seen by the phylogenetic analysis. It gives the first evidence of the introduction of Cosmopolitan Genotype IVa in Nepal. These strains replace the Genotype IVb strains prevalent earlier since 2004. Both genotypes had closer genetic relation to strains from other countries indicating possibility of exotic introduction. The Genotype IVa strain seems to be more adapted in C6/36 mosquito cells as indicated by its marginally increased replication rate than the Asian II strain in in vitro infection kinetics assays. The genotype replacement and co-circulation of two distinct genotypes may have significant consequences in dengue epidemiology and disease dynamics in Nepal in years to come.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2015.07.006DOI Listing
August 2015

High throughput proteomic analysis and a comparative review identify the nuclear chaperone, Nucleophosmin among the common set of proteins modulated in Chikungunya virus infection.

J Proteomics 2015 Apr 14;120:126-41. Epub 2015 Mar 14.

Molecular Virology Laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thiruvananthapuram 695014, Kerala, India. Electronic address:

Unlabelled: Global re-emergence of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) has renewed the interest in its cellular pathogenesis. We subjected CHIKV-infected Human Embryo Kidney cells (HEK293), a widely used cell-based system for CHIKV infection studies, to a high throughput expression proteomics analysis by Liquid Chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. A total of 1047 differentially expressed proteins were identified in infected cells, consistently in three biological replicates. Proteins involved in transcription, translation, apoptosis and stress response were the major ones among the 209 proteins that had significant up-regulation. In the set of 45 down-regulated proteins, those involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism predominated. A STRING network analysis revealed tight interaction of proteins within the apoptosis, stress response and protein synthesis pathways. We short-listed a common set of 30 proteins that can be implicated in cellular pathology of CHIKV infection by comparing our results and results of earlier CHIKV proteomics studies. Modulation of eight proteins selected from this set was re-confirmed at transcript level. One among them, Nucleophosmin, a nuclear chaperone, showed temporal modulation and cytoplasmic aggregation upon CHIKV infection in double immunofluorescence staining and confocal microscopy. The short-listed cellular proteins will be potential candidates for targeted study of the molecular interactions of CHIKV with host cells.

Biological Significance: Chikungunya remained as a neglected tropical disease till its re-emergence in 2005 in the La RéUnion islands and subsequently, in India and many parts of South East Asia. These and the epidemics that followed in subsequent years ran an explosive course leading to extreme morbidity and attributed mortality to this originally benign virus infection. Apart from classical symptoms of acute fever and debilitating polyarthralgia lasting for several weeks, a number of complications were documented. These included aphthous-like ulcers and vesiculo-bullous eruptions on the skin, hepatic involvement, central nervous system complications such as encephalopathy and encephalitis, and transplacental transmission. The disease has recently spread to the Americas with its initial documentation in the Caribbean islands. The Asian genotype of this positive-stranded RNA virus of the Alphavirus genus has been attributed in these outbreaks. However, the disease ran a similar course as the one caused by the East, Central and South African (ECSA) genotype in the other parts of the world. Studies have documented a number of mutations in the re-emerging strains of the virus that enhances mosquito adaptability and modulates virus infectivity. This might support the occurrence of fiery outbreaks in the absence of herd immunity in affected population. Several research groups work to understand the pathogenesis of chikungunya and the mechanisms of complications using cellular and animal models. A few proteomics approaches have been employed earlier to understand the protein level changes in the infected cells. Our present study, which couples a high throughput proteomic analysis and a comparative review of these earlier studies, identifies a few critical molecules as hypothetical candidates that might be important in this infection and for future study.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jprot.2015.03.007DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7102674PMC
April 2015

Multi-peaked adaptive landscape for chikungunya virus evolution predicts continued fitness optimization in Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.

Nat Commun 2014 Jun 16;5:4084. Epub 2014 Jun 16.

Department of Pathology, Center for Tropical Diseases, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, 77555-0609 USA.

Host species-specific fitness landscapes largely determine the outcome of host switching during pathogen emergence. Using chikungunya virus (CHIKV) to study adaptation to a mosquito vector, we evaluated mutations associated with recently evolved sub-lineages. Multiple Aedes albopictus-adaptive fitness peaks became available after CHIKV acquired an initial adaptive (E1-A226V) substitution, permitting rapid lineage diversification observed in nature. All second-step mutations involved replacements by glutamine or glutamic acid of E2 glycoprotein amino acids in the acid-sensitive region, providing a framework to anticipate additional A. albopictus-adaptive mutations. The combination of second-step adaptive mutations into a single, 'super-adaptive' fitness peak also predicted the future emergence of CHIKV strains with even greater transmission efficiency in some current regions of endemic circulation, followed by their likely global spread.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms5084DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7091890PMC
June 2014

Induction of cytopathogenicity in human glioblastoma cells by chikungunya virus.

PLoS One 2013 25;8(9):e75854. Epub 2013 Sep 25.

Viral Disease Biology Program, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), an arthritogenic old-world alphavirus, has been implicated in the central nervous system (CNS) infection in infants and elderly patients. Astrocytes are the major immune cells of the brain parenchyma that mediate inflammation. In the present study we found that a local isolate of CHIKV infect and activate U-87 MG cells, a glioblastoma cell line of human astrocyte origin. The infection kinetics were similar in infected U-87 MG cells and the human embryo kidney (HEK293) cells as indicated by immunofluorescence and plaque assays, 24h post-infection (p.i.). In infected U-87 MG cells, apoptosis was detectable from 48h p.i. evidenced by DNA fragmentation, PARP cleavage, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, nuclear condensation and visible cytopathic effects in a dose and time-dependent manner. XBP1 mRNA splicing and eIF2α phosphorylation studies indicated the occurrence of endoplasmic reticulum stress in infected cells. In U-87 MG cells stably expressing a green fluorescent protein-tagged light chain-3 (GFP-LC3) protein, CHIKV infection showed increased autophagy response. The infection led to an enhanced expression of the mRNA transcripts of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6 and CXCL9 within 24h p.i. Significant up-regulation of the proteins of RIG-I like receptor (RLR) pathway, such as RIG-I and TRAF-6, was observed indicating the activation of the cytoplasmic-cellular innate immune response. The overall results show that the U-87 MG cell line is a potential in vitro model for in depth study of these molecular pathways in response to CHIKV infection. The responses in these cells of CNS origin, which are inherently defective in Type I interferon response, could be analogous to that occurring in infants and very old patients who also have a compromised interferon-response. The results also point to the intriguing possibility of using this virus for studies to develop oncolytic virus therapy approaches against glioblastoma, a highly aggressive malignancy.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0075854PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3783433PMC
July 2014

Lineage shift in Indian strains of Dengue virus serotype-3 (Genotype III), evidenced by detection of lineage IV strains in clinical cases from Kerala.

Virol J 2013 Jan 29;10:37. Epub 2013 Jan 29.

Viral Disease Biology Program, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.

Background: Local epidemiology of Dengue is defined by the genetic diversity of the circulating Dengue virus (DENV) strains. This important information is not available for the virus strains from most parts of the Indian subcontinent. The present study focused on the genetic diversity of the serotype 3 DENV strains (DENV-3) from India.

Results: A total of 22 DENV-3 strains identified by reverse-transcription PCR analysis of serum samples from 709 patients were studied. These samples were collected over a period of 4 years (2008-2011) from dengue fever suspected patients from Kerala, a dengue endemic state in South India. Comparison of a 1740bp nucleotide sequence of the viral Capsid-Pre-membrane-Envelope coding region of our strains and previously reported DENV-3 strains from India, South Asia and South America revealed non-synonymous substitutions that were genotype III-specific as well as sporadic. Evidence of positive selection was detected in the I81 amino acid residue of the envelope protein. Out of the 22 samples, three had I81A and 18 had I81V substitutions. In the phylogenetic analysis by maximum likelihood method the strains from Kerala clustered in two different lineages (lineage III and IV) within genotype III clade of DENV-3 strains. The ten strains that belonged to lineage IV had a signature amino acid substitution T219A in the envelope protein. Interestingly, all these strains were found to be closely related to a Singapore strain GU370053 isolated in 2007.

Conclusions: Our study identifies for the first time the presence of lineage IV strains in the Indian subcontinent. Results indicate the possibility of a recent exotic introduction and also a shift from the existing lineage III strains to lineage IV. Lineage shifts in DENV-3 strains have been attributed to dramatic increase in disease severity in many parts of the world. Hence the present observation could be significant in terms of the clinical severity of future dengue cases in the region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1743-422X-10-37DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3598737PMC
January 2013

Differential gene expression analysis of in vitro duck hepatitis B virus infected primary duck hepatocyte cultures.

Virol J 2011 Jul 23;8:363. Epub 2011 Jul 23.

Molecular Virology Laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Kerala, India.

Background: The human hepatitis B virus (HBV), a member of the hepadna viridae, causes acute or chronic hepatitis B, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) infection, a dependable and reproducible model for hepadna viral studies, does not result in HCC unlike chronic HBV infection. Information on differential gene expression in DHBV infection might help to compare corresponding changes during HBV infection, and to delineate the reasons for this difference.

Findings: A subtractive hybridization cDNA library screening of in vitro DHBV infected, cultured primary duck hepatocytes (PDH) identified cDNAs of 42 up-regulated and 36 down-regulated genes coding for proteins associated with signal transduction, cellular respiration, transcription, translation, ubiquitin/proteasome pathway, apoptosis, and membrane and cytoskeletal organization. Those coding for both novel as well as previously reported proteins in HBV/DHBV infection were present in the library. An inverse modulation of the cDNAs of ten proteins, reported to play role in human HCC, such as that of Y-box binding protein1, Platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolase isoform 1B, ribosomal protein L35a, Ferritin, α-enolase, Acid α-glucosidase and Caspase 3, copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD), Filamin and Pyruvate dehydrogenase, was also observed in this in vitro study.

Conclusions: The present study identified cDNAs of a number of genes that are differentially modulated in in vitro DHBV infection of primary duck hepatocytes. Further correlation of this differential gene expression in in vivo infection models would be valuable to understand the little known aspects of the hepadnavirus biology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1743-422X-8-363DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3152538PMC
July 2011

Molecular characterization of Chikungunya virus isolates from clinical samples and adult Aedes albopictus mosquitoes emerged from larvae from Kerala, South India.

Virol J 2010 Aug 13;7:189. Epub 2010 Aug 13.

Molecular Virology Laboratory, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thycaud P.O., Thiruvananthapuram-695014, Kerala, India.

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), an arthritogenic alphavirus, is transmitted to humans by infected Aedes (Ae.) aegypti and Ae.albopictus mosquitoes. In the study, reverse-transcription PCR (RT PCR) and virus isolation detected CHIKV in patient samples and also in adult Ae.albopictus mosquitoes that was derived from larvae collected during a chikungunya (CHIK) outbreak in Kerala in 2009. The CHIKV strains involved in the outbreak were the East, Central and South African (ECSA) genotype that had the E1 A226V mutation. The viral strains from the mosquitoes and CHIK patients from the same area showed a close relationship based on phylogenetic analysis. Genetic characterization by partial sequencing of non-structural protein 2 (nsP2; 378 bp), envelope E1 (505 bp) and E2 (428 bp) identified one critical mutation in the E2 protein coding region of these CHIKV strains. This novel, non-conservative mutation, L210Q, consistently present in both human and mosquito-derived samples studied, was within the region of the E2 protein (amino acids E2 200-220) that determines mosquito cell infectivity in many alpha viruses. Our results show the involvement of Ae. albopictus in this outbreak in Kerala and appearance of CHIKV with novel genetic changes. Detection of virus in adult mosquitoes, emerged in the laboratory from larvae, also points to the possibility of transovarial transmission (TOT) of mutant CHIKV strains in mosquitoes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1743-422X-7-189DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2928196PMC
August 2010

Molecular dynamics simulation studies and in vitro site directed mutagenesis of avian beta-defensin Apl_AvBD2.

BMC Bioinformatics 2010 Jan 18;11 Suppl 1:S7. Epub 2010 Jan 18.

Molecular Virology Laboratory, Department of Molecular Microbiology, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Thycaud PO, Thiruvananthapuram-695014, Kerala, India.

Background: Defensins comprise a group of antimicrobial peptides, widely recognized as important elements of the innate immune system in both animals and plants. Cationicity, rather than the secondary structure, is believed to be the major factor defining the antimicrobial activity of defensins. To test this hypothesis and to improve the activity of the newly identified avian beta-defensin Apl_AvBD2 by enhancing the cationicity, we performed in silico site directed mutagenesis, keeping the predicted secondary structure intact. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulation studies were done to predict the activity. Mutant proteins were made by in vitro site directed mutagenesis and recombinant protein expression, and tested for antimicrobial activity to confirm the results obtained in MD simulation analysis.

Results: MD simulation revealed subtle, but critical, structural variations between the wild type Apl_AvBD2 and the more cationic in silico mutants, which were not detected in the initial structural prediction by homology modelling. The C-terminal cationic 'claw' region, important in antimicrobial activity, which was intact in the wild type, showed changes in shape and orientation in all the mutant peptides. Mutant peptides also showed increased solvent accessible surface area and more number of hydrogen bonds with the surrounding water molecules. In functional studies, the Escherichia coli expressed, purified recombinant mutant proteins showed total loss of antimicrobial activity compared to the wild type protein.

Conclusion: The study revealed that cationicity alone is not the determining factor in the microbicidal activity of antimicrobial peptides. Factors affecting the molecular dynamics such as hydrophobicity, electrostatic interactions and the potential for oligomerization may also play fundamental roles. It points to the usefulness of MD simulation studies in successful engineering of antimicrobial peptides for improved activity and other desirable functions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2105-11-S1-S7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3009542PMC
January 2010
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