Antibodies specific for Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) can be detected by diverse methods, including ezyme-linked immunosortbent assay (ELISA) and virus neutralization test (VNT). The VNT is superior in sensitivity and specificity and is therefore considered the gold standard serological assay. Classical VNTs make use of virulent RVFV and therefore have to be performed in biosafety level 3 laboratories. Here, we report the development of a novel VNT that is based on an avirulent RVFV expressing the enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP), which can be performed safely outside level 3 biocontainment facilities. Evaluation with a broad panel of experimental sera and field sera demonstrated that this novel VNT is faster and more sensitive than the classical VNT.
Orthobunyaviruses are enveloped viruses that can cause human and animal diseases. A novel and major member is the Schmallenberg virus(SBV), the etiological agent of an emerging disease of ruminants that has been spreading all over Europe since 2011. The glycoproteins Gn and Gc of orthobunyaviruses mediate the viral entry, and specifically Gc is a major target for the humoral immune response. For example, the N terminal subdomain of the SBV glycoprotein Gc is targeted by neutralizing monoclonal antibodies that recognize conformational epitopes. Here, we determined the structural features of the N terminus of Gc, and analysed its interaction with monoclonal antibodies. We were able to demonstrate that one of two N-glycosylation sites is essential for secretion and interaction with a subset of Gc-specific monoclonal antibodies. Furthermore, four disulfide bonds (S-S) were identified and the deletion of the third S-S blocked reactivity with another subset of mAbs with virus-neutralizing and non-neutralizing activity. The mutagenesis of the N-glycosylation sites and the disulfide bonds strongly indicated the independent folding of two subdomains within the SBV Gc N terminus. Further, the epitopes recognized by a panel of mAbs could be grouped into two clusters, as revealed by fine mapping using chimeric proteins. Combining the disulfide bonding and epitope mapping allowed us to generate a structural model of the SBV Gc N-terminus. This novel information about the role and structure of the amino terminal region of SBV Gc is of general relevance for the design of antivirals and vaccines against this virus.
Cell surface aminopeptidase N (APN) is a membrane-bound ectoenzyme that hydrolyzes proteins and peptides and regulates numerous cell functions. APN participates in tumor cell expansion and motility, and is a target for cancer therapies. Small drugs that bind to the APN active site inhibit catalysis and suppress tumor growth. APN is also a major cell entry receptor for coronavirus, which binds to a region distant from the active site. Three crystal structures that we determined of human and pig APN ectodomains defined the dynamic conformation of the protein. These structures offered snapshots of closed, intermediate and open APN, which represent distinct functional states. Coronavirus envelope proteins specifically recognized the open APN form, prevented ectodomain progression to the closed form and substrate hydrolysis. In addition, drugs that bind the active site inhibited both coronavirus binding to cell surface APN and infection; the drugs probably hindered APN transition to the virus-specific open form. We conclude that allosteric inhibition of APN functions occurs by ligand suppression of ectodomain motions necessary for catalysis and virus cell entry, as validated by locking APN with disulfides. Blocking APN dynamics can thus be a valuable approach to development of drugs that target this ectoenzyme.