Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics Research Works

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    Breaking the conformational ensemble barrier: Ensemble structure modeling challenges in CASP15
    (Wiley, 2023-10-23) Kryshtafovych, Andriy; Montelione, Gaetano T.; Rigden, Daniel J.; Mesdaghi, Shahram; Karaca, Ezgi; Moult, John
    or the first time, the 2022 CASP (Critical Assessment of Structure Prediction) community experiment included a section on computing multiple conformations for protein and RNA structures. There was full or partial success in reproducing the ensembles for four of the nine targets, an encouraging result. For protein structures, enhanced sampling with variations of the AlphaFold2 deep learning method was by far the most effective approach. One substantial conformational change caused by a single mutation across a complex interface was accurately reproduced. In two other assembly modeling cases, methods succeeded in sampling conformations near to the experimental ones even though environmental factors were not included in the calculations. An experimentally derived flexibility ensemble allowed a single accurate RNA structure model to be identified. Difficulties included how to handle sparse or low-resolution experimental data and the current lack of effective methods for modeling RNA/protein complexes. However, these and other obstacles appear addressable.
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    Prospects for developing an Hepatitis C virus E1E2-based nanoparticle vaccine
    (Wiley, 2023-08-11) Toth, Eric A.; Andrianov, Alexander K.; Fuerst, Thomas R.
    Globally, more than 58 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV) with 1.5 million new infections occurring each year. An effective vaccine for HCV is therefore a major unmet medical and public health need. Since HCV rapidly accumulates mutations, vaccines must elicit the production of broadly neutralising antibodies (bnAbs) in a reproducible fashion. Decades of research have generated a number of HCV vaccine candidates. Based on the available data and research through clinical development, a vaccine antigen based on the E1E2 glycoprotein complex appears to be the best choice, but robust induction of humoral and cellular responses leading to virus neutralisation has not yet been achieved. One issue that has arisen in developing an HCV vaccine (and many other vaccines as well) is the platform used for antigen delivery. The majority of viral vaccine trials have employed subunit vaccines. However, subunit vaccines often have limited immunogenicity, as seen for HCV, and thus multiple formats must be examined in order to elicit a robust anti-HCV immune response. Nanoparticle vaccines are gaining prominence in the field due to their ability to facilitate a controlled multivalent presentation and trafficking to lymph nodes, where they can interact with both arms of the immune system. This review discusses the potential for development of a nanoparticle-based HCV E1E2 vaccine, with an emphasis on the potential benefits of such an approach along with the major challenges facing the incorporation of E1E2 into nanoparticulate delivery systems and how those challenges can be addressed.
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    Rosaceae fruit transcriptome database (ROFT)—a useful genomic resource for comparing fruits of apple, peach, strawberry, and raspberry
    (Wiley, 2023-11-14) Li, Muzi; Mount, Stephen M.; Liu, Zhongchi
    Rosaceae is a large plant family consisting of many economically important fruit crops including peach, apple, pear, strawberry, raspberry, plum, and others. Investigations into their growth and development will promote both basic understanding and progress toward increasing fruit yield and quality. With the ever-increasing high-throughput sequencing data of Rosaceae, comparative studies are hindered by inconsistency of sample collection with regard to tissue, stage, growth conditions, and by vastly different handling of the data. Therefore, databases that enable easy access and effective utilization of directly comparable transcript data are highly desirable. Here, we describe a database for comparative analysis, ROsaceae Fruit Transcriptome database (ROFT), based on RNA-seq data generated from the same laboratory using similarly dissected and staged fruit tissues of four important Rosaceae fruit crops: apple, peach, strawberry, and red raspberry. Hence, the database is unique in allowing easy and robust comparisons among fruit gene expression across the four species. ROFT enables researchers to query orthologous genes and their expression patterns during different fruit developmental stages in the four species, identify tissue-specific and tissue-/stage-specific genes, visualize and compare ortholog expression in different fruit types, explore consensus co-expression networks, and download different data types. The database provides users access to vast amounts of RNA-seq data across the four economically important fruits, enables investigations of fruit type specification and evolution, and facilitates the selection of genes with critical roles in fruit development for further studies.
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    Genomic diversity of Vibrio spp. and metagenomic analysis of pathogens in Florida Gulf coastal waters following Hurricane Ian
    (American Society for Microbiology, 2023-10) Brumfield, Kyle D.; Usmani, Moiz; Santiago, Sanneri; Singh, Komalpreet; Gangwar, Mayank; Hasan, Nur A.; Netherland, Michael Jr.; Deliz, Katherine; Angelini, Christine; Beatty, Norman L.; Huq, Anwar; Jutla, Antarpreet S.; Colwell, Rita R.
    Changing climatic conditions influence parameters associated with the growth of pathogenic Vibrio spp. in the environment and, hence, are linked to increased incidence of vibriosis. Between 1992 and 2022, a long-term increase in Vibrio spp. infections was reported in Florida, USA. Furthermore, a spike in Vibrio spp. infections was reported post Hurricane Ian, a category five storm that made landfall in Florida on 28 September 2022. During October 2022, water and oyster samples were collected from three stations in Lee County in an area significantly impacted by Ian. Vibrio spp. were isolated, and whole-genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis were done, with a focus on Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus to provide genetic insight into pathogenic strains circulating in the environment. Metagenomic analysis of water samples provided insight with respect to human health-related factors, notably the detection of approximately 12 pathogenic Vibrio spp., virulence and antibiotic resistance genes, and mobile genetic elements, including the SXT/R391 family of integrative conjugative elements. Environmental parameters were monitored as part of a long-term time series analysis done using satellite remote sensing. In addition to anomalous rainfall and storm surge, changes in sea surface temperature and chlorophyll concentration during and after Ian favored the growth of Vibrio spp. In conclusion, genetic analysis coupled with environmental data and remote sensing provides useful public health information and, hence, constitute a valuable tool to proactively detect and characterize environmental pathogens, notably vibrios. These data can aid the development of early warning systems by yielding a larger source of information for public health during climate change.
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    Carbohydrase Systems of Saccharophagus degradans Degrading Marine Complex Polysaccharides
    (MDPI, 2011-04-21) Hutcheson, Steven W.; Zhang, Haitao; Suvorov, Maxim
    Saccharophagus degradans 2–40 is a γ-subgroup proteobacterium capable of using many of the complex polysaccharides found in the marine environment for growth. To utilize these complex polysaccharides, this bacterium produces a plethora of carbohydrases dedicated to the processing of a carbohydrate class. Aiding in the identification of the contributing genes and enzymes is the known genome sequence for this bacterium. This review catalogs the genes and enzymes of the S. degradans genome that are likely to function in the systems for the utilization of agar, alginate, α- and β-glucans, chitin, mannans, pectins, and xylans and discusses the cell biology and genetics of each system as it functions to transfer carbon back to the bacterium.
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    IFN-Dependent and -Independent Reduction in West Nile Virus Infectivity in Human Dermal Fibroblasts
    (MDPI, 2014-03-24) Hoover, Lisa I.; Fredericksen, Brenda L.
    Although dermal fibroblasts are one of the first cell types exposed to West Nile virus (WNV) during a blood meal by an infected mosquito, little is known about WNV replication within this cell type. Here, we demonstrate that neuroinvasive, WNV-New York (WNV-NY), and nonneuroinvasive, WNV-Australia (WNV-AUS60) strains are able to infect and replicate in primary human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs). However, WNV-AUS60 replication and spread within HDFs was reduced compared to that of WNV-NY due to an interferon (IFN)-independent reduction in viral infectivity early in infection. Additionally, replication of both strains was constrained late in infection by an IFN-β-dependent reduction in particle infectivity. Overall, our data indicates that human dermal fibroblasts are capable of supporting WNV replication; however, the low infectivity of particles produced from HDFs late in infection suggests that this cell type likely plays a limited role as a viral reservoir in vivo.
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    Generation of West Nile Virus Infectious Clones Containing Amino Acid Insertions Between Capsid and Capsid Anchor
    (MDPI, 2014-04-09) Vandergaast, Rianna; Hoover, Lisa I.; Zheng, Kang; Fredericksen, Brenda L.
    West Nile virus (WNV) is a positive-sense RNA arbovirus responsible for recent outbreaks of severe neurological disease within the US and Europe. Large-scale analyses of antiviral compounds that inhibit virus replication have been limited due to the lack of an adequate WN reporter virus. Previous attempts to insert a reporter into the 3’ untranslated region of WNV generated unstable viruses, suggesting that this region does not accommodate additional nucleotides. Here, we engineered two WNV infectious clones containing insertions at the Capsid (C)/Capsid Anchor (CA) junction of the viral polyprotein. Recombinant viruses containing a TAT(1-67) or Gaussia Luciferase (GLuc) gene at this location were successfully recovered. However, rapid loss of most, if not all, of the reporter sequence occurred for both viruses, indicating that the reporter viruses were not stable. While the GLuc viruses predominantly reverted back to wild-type WNV length, the TAT viruses retained up to 75 additional nucleotides of the reporter sequence. These additional nucleotides were stable over at least five passages and did not significantly alter WNV fitness. Thus, the C/CA junction of WNV can tolerate additional nucleotides, though insertions are subject to certain constraints.
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    The Role of Potassium Channels in Arabidopsis thaliana Long Distance Electrical Signalling: AKT2 Modulates Tissue Excitability While GORK Shapes Action Potentials
    (MDPI, 2018-03-21) Cuin, Tracey Ann; Dreyer, Ingo; Michard, Erwan
    Fast responses to an external threat depend on the rapid transmission of signals through a plant. Action potentials (APs) are proposed as such signals. Plant APs share similarities with their animal counterparts; they are proposed to depend on the activity of voltage-gated ion channels. Nonetheless, despite their demonstrated role in (a)biotic stress responses, the identities of the associated voltage-gated channels and transporters remain undefined in higher plants. By demonstrating the role of two potassium-selective channels in Arabidopsis thaliana in AP generation and shaping, we show that the plant AP does depend on similar Kv-like transport systems to those of the animal signal. We demonstrate that the outward-rectifying potassium-selective channel GORK limits the AP amplitude and duration, while the weakly-rectifying channel AKT2 affects membrane excitability. By computational modelling of plant APs, we reveal that the GORK activity not only determines the length of an AP but also the steepness of its rise and the maximal amplitude. Thus, outward-rectifying potassium channels contribute to both the repolarisation phase and the initial depolarisation phase of the signal. Additionally, from modelling considerations we provide indications that plant APs might be accompanied by potassium waves, which prime the excitability of the green cable.
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    Neisseria gonorrhoeae Aggregation Reduces Its Ceftriaxone Susceptibility
    (MDPI, 2018-06-15) Wang, Liang-Chun; Litwin, Madeline; Sahiholnasab, Zahraossadat; Song, Wenxia; Stein, Daniel C.
    Antibiotic resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae (GC) has become an emerging threat worldwide and heightens the need for monitoring treatment failures. N. gonorrhoeae, a gram-negative bacterium responsible for gonorrhea, infects humans exclusively and can form aggregates during infection. While minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) tests are often used for determining antibiotic resistance development and treatment, the knowledge of the true MIC in individual patients and how it relates to this laboratory measure is not known. We examined the effect of aggregation on GC antibiotic susceptibility and the relationship between bacterial aggregate size and their antibiotic susceptibility. Aggregated GC have a higher survival rate when treated with ceftriaxone than non-aggregated GC, with bacteria in the core of the aggregates surviving the treatment. GC lacking opacity-associated protein or pili, or expressing a truncated lipooligosaccharide, three surface molecules that mediate GC-GC interactions, reduce both aggregation and ceftriaxone survival. This study demonstrates that the aggregation of N. gonorrhoeae can reduce the susceptibility to antibiotics, and suggests that antibiotic utilization can select for GC surface molecules that promote aggregation which in turn drive pathogen evolution. Inhibiting aggregation may be a potential way of increasing the efficacy of ceftriaxone treatment, consequently reducing treatment failure.
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    The Expanding Riboverse
    (MDPI, 2019-10-05) Sulima, Sergey O.; Dinman, Jonathan D.
    Subverting the conventional concept of “the” ribosome, a wealth of information gleaned from recent studies is revealing a much more diverse and dynamic ribosomal reality than has traditionally been thought possible. A diverse array of researchers is collectively illuminating a universe of heterogeneous and adaptable ribosomes harboring differences in composition and regulatory capacity: These differences enable specialization. The expanding universe of ribosomes not only comprises an incredible richness in ribosomal specialization between species, but also within the same tissues and even cells. In this review, we discuss ribosomal heterogeneity and speculate how the emerging understanding of the ribosomal repertoire is impacting the biological sciences today. Targeting pathogen-specific and pathological “diseased” ribosomes promises to provide new treatment options for patients, and potential applications for “designer ribosomes” are within reach. Our deepening understanding of and ability to manipulate the ribosome are establishing both the technological and theoretical foundations for major advances for the 21st century and beyond.
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    simpleaf: a simple, flexible, and scalable framework for single-cell data processing using alevin-fry
    (OUP Bioinformatics, 2023-10-06) He, Dongze; Patro, Rob; Patro, Rob
    The alevin-fry ecosystem provides a robust and growing suite of programs for single-cell data processing. However, as new single-cell technologies are introduced, as the community continues to adjust best practices for data processing, and as the alevin-fry ecosystem itself expands and grows, it is becoming increasingly important to manage the complexity of alevin-fry’s single-cell preprocessing workflows while retaining the performance and flexibility that make these tools enticing. We introduce simpleaf, a program that simplifies the processing of single-cell data using tools from the alevin-fry ecosystem, and adds new functionality and capabilities, while retaining the flexibility and performance of the underlying tools. Simpleaf is written in Rust and released under a BSD 3-Clause license. It is freely available from its GitHub repository https://github.com/COMBINE-lab/simpleaf, and via bioconda. Documentation for simpleaf is available at https://simpleaf.readthedocs.io/en/latest/ and tutorials for simpleaf that have been developed can be accessed at https://combine-lab.github.io/alevin-fry-tutorials.
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    The Sialoside-Binding Pocket of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein Structurally Resembles MERS-CoV
    (MDPI, 2020-08-19) Awasthi, Mayanka; Gulati, Sahil; Sarkar, Debi P.; Tiwari, Swasti; Kateriya, Suneel; Ranjan, Peeyush; Verma, Santosh Kumar
    COVID-19 novel coronavirus (CoV) disease caused by severe acquired respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV-2 manifests severe lethal respiratory illness in humans and has recently developed into a worldwide pandemic. The lack of effective treatment strategy and vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 poses a threat to human health. An extremely high infection rate and multi-organ secondary infection within a short period of time makes this virus more deadly and challenging for therapeutic interventions. Despite high sequence similarity and utilization of common host-cell receptor, human angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) for virus entry, SARS-CoV-2 is much more infectious than SARS-CoV. Structure-based sequence comparison of the N-terminal domain (NTD) of the spike protein of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-CoV, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 illustrate three divergent loop regions in SARS-CoV-2, which is reminiscent of MERS-CoV sialoside binding pockets. Comparative binding analysis with host sialosides revealed conformational flexibility of SARS-CoV-2 divergent loop regions to accommodate diverse glycan-rich sialosides. These key differences with SARS-CoV and similarity with MERS-CoV suggest an evolutionary adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein reciprocal interaction with host surface sialosides to infect host cells with wide tissue tropism.
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    Extraction of Membrane Components from Neisseria gonorrhoeae Using Catanionic Surfactant Vesicles: A New Approach for the Study of Bacterial Surface Molecules
    (MDPI, 2020-08-20) Stein, Daniel C.; Stocker, Lenea H.; Powell, Abigail E.; Kebede, Salsawi; Watts, David; Williams, Emma; Soto, Nicholas; Dhabaria, Avantika; Fenselau, Catherine; Ganapati, Shweta; DeShong, Philip
    Identification of antigens is important for vaccine production. We tested extraction protocols using cetyltrimethylammonium tosylate (CTAT) and sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate (SDBS) to formulate surfactant vesicles (SVs) containing components from Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Carbohydrate and protein assays demonstrated that protein and carbohydrates were incorporated into the vesicle leaflet. Depending on the extraction protocol utilized, 100–400 µg of protein/mL of SVs solution was obtained. Gel electrophoresis followed by silver staining demonstrated that SV extracts contained lipooligosaccharide and a subset of bacterial proteins and lipoproteins. Western blotting and mass spectral analysis indicated that the majority of the proteins were derived from the outer membrane. Mass spectrometric and bioinformatics analysis of SVs identified 29 membrane proteins, including porin and opacity-associated protein. Proteins embedded in the SVs leaflet could be degraded by the addition of trypsin or proteinase K. Our data showed that the incorporation of CTAT and SDBS into vesicles eliminated their toxicity as measured by a THP-1 killing assay. Incorporation of gonococcal cell surface components into SVs reduced toxicity as compared to the whole cell extracts, as measured by cytokine induction, while retaining the immunogenicity. This process constitutes a general method for extracting bacterial surface components and identification of antigens that might be included in vaccines.
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    Antimicrobial and Antivirulence Impacts of Phenolics on Salmonella Enterica Serovar Typhimurium
    (MDPI, 2020-10-03) Alvarado-Martinez, Zabdiel; Bravo, Paulina; Kennedy, Nana-Frekua; Krishna, Mayur; Hussain, Syed; Young, Alana C.; Biswas, Debabrata
    Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (ST) remains a major infectious agent in the USA, with an increasing antibiotic resistance pattern, which requires the development of novel antimicrobials capable of controlling ST. Polyphenolic compounds found in plant extracts are strong candidates as alternative antimicrobials, particularly phenolic acids such as gallic acid (GA), protocatechuic acid (PA) and vanillic acid (VA). This study evaluates the effectiveness of these compounds in inhibiting ST growth while determining changes to the outer membrane through fluorescent dye uptake and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), in addition to measuring alterations to virulence genes with qRT-PCR. Results showed antimicrobial potential for all compounds, significantly inhibiting the detectable growth of ST. Fluorescent spectrophotometry and microscopy detected an increase in relative fluorescent intensity (RFI) and red-colored bacteria over time, suggesting membrane permeabilization. SEM revealed severe morphological defects at the polar ends of bacteria treated with GA and PA, while VA-treated bacteria were found to be mid-division. Relative gene expression showed significant downregulation in master regulator hilA and invH after GA and PA treatments, while fliC was upregulated in VA. Results suggest that GA, PA and VA have antimicrobial potential that warrants further research into their mechanism of action and the interactions that lead to ST death.
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    Novel Modular Rhodopsins from Green Algae Hold Great Potential for Cellular Optogenetic Modulation Across the Biological Model Systems
    (MDPI, 2020-10-28) Awasthi, Mayanka; Sushmita, Kumari; Kaushik, Manish Singh; Ranjan, Peeyush; Kateriya, Suneel
    Light-gated ion channel and ion pump rhodopsins are widely used as optogenetic tools and these can control the electrically excitable cells as (1) they are a single-component system i.e., their light sensing and ion-conducting functions are encoded by the 7-transmembrane domains and, (2) they show fast kinetics with small dark-thermal recovery time. In cellular signaling, a signal receptor, modulator, and the effector components are involved in attaining synchronous regulation of signaling. Optical modulation of the multicomponent network requires either receptor to effector encoded in a single ORF or direct modulation of the effector domain through bypassing all upstream players. Recently discovered modular rhodopsins like rhodopsin guanylate cyclase (RhoGC) and rhodopsin phosphodiesterase (RhoPDE) paves the way to establish a proof of concept for utilization of complex rhodopsin (modular rhodopsin) for optogenetic applications. Light sensor coupled modular system could be expressed in any cell type and hence holds great potential in the advancement of optogenetics 2.0 which would enable manipulating the entire relevant cell signaling system. Here, we had identified 50 novel modular rhodopsins with variant domains and their diverse cognate signaling cascades encoded in a single ORF, which are associated with specialized functions in the cells. These novel modular algal rhodopsins have been characterized based on their sequence and structural homology with previously reported rhodopsins. The presented novel modular rhodopsins with various effector domains leverage the potential to expand the optogenetic tool kit to regulate various cellular signaling pathways across the diverse biological model systems.
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    Leveraging 3D Model Systems to Understand Viral Interactions with the Respiratory Mucosa
    (MDPI, 2020-12-11) Iverson, Ethan; Kaler, Logan; Agostino, Eva L.; Song, Daniel; Duncan, Gregg A.; Scull, Margaret A.
    Respiratory viruses remain a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the human population, underscoring the importance of ongoing basic research into virus–host interactions. However, many critical aspects of infection are difficult, if not impossible, to probe using standard cell lines, 2D culture formats, or even animal models. In vitro systems such as airway epithelial cultures at air–liquid interface, organoids, or ‘on-chip’ technologies allow interrogation in human cells and recapitulate emergent properties of the airway epithelium—the primary target for respiratory virus infection. While some of these models have been used for over thirty years, ongoing advancements in both culture techniques and analytical tools continue to provide new opportunities to investigate airway epithelial biology and viral infection phenotypes in both normal and diseased host backgrounds. Here we review these models and their application to studying respiratory viruses. Furthermore, given the ability of these systems to recapitulate the extracellular microenvironment, we evaluate their potential to serve as a platform for studies specifically addressing viral interactions at the mucosal surface and detail techniques that can be employed to expand our understanding.
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    Structural Analysis and Whole Genome Mapping of a New Type of Plant Virus Subviral RNA: Umbravirus-Like Associated RNAs
    (MDPI, 2021-04-09) Liu, Jingyuan; Carino, Elizabeth; Bera, Sayanta; Gao, Feng; May, Jared P.; Simon, Anne E.
    We report the biological and structural characterization of umbravirus-like associated RNAs (ulaRNAs), a new category of coat-protein dependent subviral RNA replicons that infect plants. These RNAs encode an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) following a −1 ribosomal frameshift event, are 2.7–4.6 kb in length, and are related to umbraviruses, unlike similar RNA replicons that are related to tombusviruses. Three classes of ulaRNAs are proposed, with citrus yellow vein associated virus (CYVaV) placed in Class 2. With the exception of CYVaV, Class 2 and Class 3 ulaRNAs encode an additional open reading frame (ORF) with movement protein-like motifs made possible by additional sequences just past the RdRp termination codon. The full-length secondary structure of CYVaV was determined using Selective 2’ Hydroxyl Acylation analyzed by Primer Extension (SHAPE) structure probing and phylogenic comparisons, which was used as a template for determining the putative structures of the other Class 2 ulaRNAs, revealing a number of distinctive structural features. The ribosome recoding sites of nearly all ulaRNAs, which differ significantly from those of umbraviruses, may exist in two conformations and are highly efficient. The 3′ regions of Class 2 and Class 3 ulaRNAs have structural elements similar to those of nearly all umbraviruses, and all Class 2 ulaRNAs have a unique, conserved 3′ cap-independent translation enhancer. CYVaV replicates independently in protoplasts, demonstrating that the reported sequence is full-length. Additionally, CYVaV contains a sequence in its 3′ UTR that confers protection to nonsense mediated decay (NMD), thus likely obviating the need for umbravirus ORF3, a known suppressor of NMD. This initial characterization lays down a road map for future investigations into these novel virus-like RNAs.
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    Structure-Based and Rational Design of a Hepatitis C Virus Vaccine
    (MDPI, 2021-05-05) Guest, Johnathan D.; Pierce, Brian G.
    A hepatitis C virus (HCV) vaccine is a critical yet unfulfilled step in addressing the global disease burden of HCV. While decades of research have led to numerous clinical and pre-clinical vaccine candidates, these efforts have been hindered by factors including HCV antigenic variability and immune evasion. Structure-based and rational vaccine design approaches have capitalized on insights regarding the immune response to HCV and the structures of antibody-bound envelope glycoproteins. Despite successes with other viruses, designing an immunogen based on HCV glycoproteins that can elicit broadly protective immunity against HCV infection is an ongoing challenge. Here, we describe HCV vaccine design approaches where immunogens were selected and optimized through analysis of available structures, identification of conserved epitopes targeted by neutralizing antibodies, or both. Several designs have elicited immune responses against HCV in vivo, revealing correlates of HCV antigen immunogenicity and breadth of induced responses. Recent studies have elucidated the functional, dynamic and immunological features of key regions of the viral envelope glycoproteins, which can inform next-generation immunogen design efforts. These insights and design strategies represent promising pathways to HCV vaccine development, which can be further informed by successful immunogen designs generated for other viruses.
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    Structural and Biophysical Characterization of the HCV E1E2 Heterodimer for Vaccine Development
    (MDPI, 2021-05-29) Toth, Eric A.; Chagas, Andrezza; Pierce, Brian G.; Fuerst, Thomas R.
    An effective vaccine for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major unmet medical and public health need, and it requires an antigen that elicits immune responses to multiple key conserved epitopes. Decades of research have generated a number of vaccine candidates; based on these data and research through clinical development, a vaccine antigen based on the E1E2 glycoprotein complex appears to be the best choice. One bottleneck in the development of an E1E2-based vaccine is that the antigen is challenging to produce in large quantities and at high levels of purity and antigenic/functional integrity. This review describes the production and characterization of E1E2-based vaccine antigens, both membrane-associated and a novel secreted form of E1E2, with a particular emphasis on the major challenges facing the field and how those challenges can be addressed.
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    Immunopotentiating and Delivery Systems for HCV Vaccines
    (MDPI, 2021-05-25) Andrianov, Alexander K.; Fuerst, Thomas R.
    Development of preventive vaccines against hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains one of the main strategies in achieving global elimination of the disease. The effort is focused on the quest for vaccines capable of inducing protective cross-neutralizing humoral and cellular immune responses, which in turn dictate the need for rationally designed cross-genotype vaccine antigens and potent immunoadjuvants systems. This review provides an assessment of the current state of knowledge on immunopotentiating compounds and vaccine delivery systems capable of enhancing HCV antigen-specific immune responses, while focusing on the synergy and interplay of two modalities. Structural, physico-chemical, and biophysical features of these systems are discussed in conjunction with the analysis of their in vivo performance. Extreme genetic diversity of HCV-a well-known hurdle in the development of an HCV vaccine, may also present a challenge in a search for an effective immunoadjuvant, as the effort necessitates systematic and comparative screening of rationally designed antigenic constructs. The progress may be accelerated if the preference is given to well-defined molecular immunoadjuvants with greater formulation flexibility and adaptability, including those capable of spontaneous self-assembly behavior, while maintaining their robust immunopotentiating and delivery capabilities.