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Architecture of African swine fever virus and implications for viral assembly

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Science  01 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6465, pp. 640-644
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz1439

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Unveiling African swine fever virus

African swine fever virus (ASFV) is highly contagious and often lethal. With no vaccine or effective treatment, infections often require large-scale culling of pigs. Wang et al. apply cutting-edge cryo–electron microscopy techniques to determine the structure of this very large DNA virus. An 8.8-angstrom-resolution reconstruction shows the five layers of the virus, and the fourth capsid layer could be reconstructed at 4.8-angstrom resolution. The structure reveals epitopes in the major capsid protein that distinguish ASFV from other nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses and shows how the minor capsid proteins stabilize the capsid.

Science, this issue p. 640

Abstract

African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a giant and complex DNA virus that causes a highly contagious and often lethal swine disease for which no vaccine is available. Using an optimized image reconstruction strategy, we solved the ASFV capsid structure up to 4.1 angstroms, which is built from 17,280 proteins, including one major (p72) and four minor (M1249L, p17, p49, and H240R) capsid proteins organized into pentasymmetrons and trisymmetrons. The atomic structure of the p72 protein informs putative conformational epitopes, distinguishing ASFV from other nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses. The minor capsid proteins form a complicated network below the outer capsid shell, stabilizing the capsid by holding adjacent capsomers together. Acting as core organizers, 100-nanometer-long M1249L proteins run along each edge of the trisymmetrons that bridge two neighboring pentasymmetrons and form extensive intermolecular networks with other capsid proteins, driving the formation of the capsid framework. These structural details unveil the basis of capsid stability and assembly, opening up new avenues for African swine fever vaccine development.

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