Ebola virus VP35 protein binds double-stranded RNA and inhibits alpha/beta interferon production induced by RIG-I signaling

Washington B. Cárdenas, Yueh Ming Loo, Michael Gale, Amy L. Hartman, Christopher R. Kimberlin, Luis Martínez-Sobrido, Erica Ollmann Saphire, Christopher F. Basler

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374 Scopus citations


The Ebola virus (EBOV) VP35 protein blocks the virus-induced phosphorylation and activation of interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3), a transcription factor critical for the induction of alpha/beta interferon (IFN-α/β) expression. However, the mechanism(s) by which this blockage occurs remains incompletely defined. We now provide evidence that VP35 possesses double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-binding activity. Specifically, VP35 bound to poly(rI) · poly(rC)-coated Sepharose beads but not control beads. In contrast, two VP35 point mutants, R312A and K309A, were found to be greatly impaired in their dsRNA-binding activity. Competition assays showed that VP35 interacted specifically with poly(rI) · poly(rC), poly(rA) · poly(rU), or in vitro-transcribed dsRNAs derived from EBOV sequences, and not with single-stranded RNAs (ssRNAs) or double-stranded DNA. We then screened wild-type and mutant VP35s for their ability to target different components of the signaling pathways that activate IRF-3. These experiments indicate that VP35 blocks activation of IRF-3 induced by overexpression of RIG-I, a cellular helicase recently implicated in the activation of IRF-3 by either virus or dsRNA. Interestingly, the VP35 mutants impaired for dsRNA binding have a decreased but measurable IFN antagonist activity in these assays. Additionally, wild-type and dsRNA-binding-mutant VP35s were found to have equivalent abilities to inhibit activation of the IFN-β promoter induced by overexpression of IPS-1, a recently identified signaling molecule downstream of RIG-I, or by overexpression of the IRF-3 kinases IKKε and TBK-1. These data support the hypothesis that dsRNA binding may contribute to VP35 IFN antagonist function. However, additional mechanisms of inhibition, at a point proximal to the IRF-3 kinases, most likely also exist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5168-5178
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2006


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