Evidence for Viral mRNA Export from Ebola Virus Inclusion Bodies by the Nuclear RNA Export Factor NXF1

2 min reading time Customer article 13 Feb ‘23

Keywords: Ebola virus; Junin virus; Lloviu virus; NXF1; filovirus; inclusion body; mRNA export; replication factory.


Lisa Wendt, Janine Brandt, Dmitry S. Ushakov, Bianca S. Bodmer, Matthew J. Pickin, Allison Groseth, Thomas Hoenen



Many negative-sense RNA viruses, including the highly pathogenic Ebola virus (EBOV), use cytoplasmic inclusion bodies (IBs) for viral RNA synthesis. However, it remains unclear how viral mRNAs are exported from these IBs for subsequent translation. We recently demonstrated that the nuclear RNA export factor 1 (NXF1) is involved in a late step in viral protein expression, i.e., downstream of viral mRNA transcription, and proposed it to be involved in this mRNA export process. We now provide further evidence for this function by showing that NXF1 is not required for translation of viral mRNAs, thus pinpointing its function to a step between mRNA transcription and translation. We further show that RNA binding of both NXF1 and EBOV NP is necessary for export of NXF1 from IBs, supporting a model in which NP hands viral mRNA over to NXF1 for export. Mapping of NP-NXF1 interactions allowed refinement of this model, revealing two separate interaction sites, one of them directly involving the RNA binding cleft of NP, even though these interactions are RNA-independent. Immunofluorescence analyses demonstrated that individual NXF1 domains are sufficient for its recruitment into IBs, and complementation assays helped to define NXF1 domains important for its function in the EBOV life cycle. Finally, we show that NXF1 is also required for protein expression of other viruses that replicate in cytoplasmic IBs, including Lloviu and Junín virus. These data suggest a role for NXF1 in viral mRNA export from IBs for various viruses, making it a potential target for broadly active antivirals.



Filoviruses such as the Ebola virus (EBOV) cause severe hemorrhagic fevers with high case fatality rates and limited treatment options. The identification of virus-host cell interactions shared among several viruses would represent promising targets for the development of broadly active antivirals. In this study, we reveal the mechanistic details of how EBOV usurps the nuclear RNA export factor 1 (NXF1) to export viral mRNAs from viral inclusion bodies (IBs). We further show that NXF1 is not only required for the EBOV life cycle but also necessary for other viruses known to replicate in cytoplasmic IBs, including the filovirus Lloviu virus and the highly pathogenic arenavirus Junín virus. This suggests NXF1 as a promising target for the development of broadly active antivirals.


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