Structural Analysis of Merkel Cell Polyomavirus (MCPyV) Viral Capsid Protein (VP1) in HIV-1 Infected Individuals
AuthorPrezioso, Carla; Bianchi, Martina; Obregon, Francisco; Ciotti, Marco; Sarmati, Loredana; Andreoni, Massimo; Palamara, Anna Teresa; Pascarella, Stefano; Moens, Ugo; Pietropaolo, Valeria
Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) viral protein 1 (VP1) is the capsid protein that mediates virus attachment to host cell receptors and is the major immune target. Given the limited data on MCPyV VP1 mutations, the VP1 genetic variability was examined in 100 plasma and 100 urine samples from 100 HIV+ individuals. Sequencing of VP1 DNA in 17 urine and 17 plasma specimens, simultaneously MCPyV DNA positive, revealed that 27 samples displayed sequences identical to VP1 of MCC350 strain. VP1 from two urine specimens had either Thr47Ser or Ile115Phe substitution, whereas VP1 of one plasma contained Asp69Val and Ser251Phe substitutions plus deletion (∆) of Tyr79. VP1 DNA in the remaining samples had mutations encoding truncated protein. Three-dimensional prediction models revealed that Asp69Val, Ser251Phe, and Ile115Phe caused neutral effects while Thr47Ser and Tyr79∆ produced a deleterious effect reducing VP1 stability. A549 cells infected with urine or plasma samples containing full-length VP1 variants with substitutions, sustained viral DNA replication and VP1 expression. Moreover, medium harvested from these cells was able to infect new A549 cells. In cells infected by samples with truncated VP1, MCPyV replication was hampered. In conclusion, MCPyV strains with unique mutations in the VP1 gene are circulating in HIV+ patients. These strains display altered replication efficiency compared to the MCC350 prototype strain in A549 cells.