Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus with dire health and economic impacts. Dengue is responsible for an estimated 390 million infections per year, with dengue 2 (DENV2) being the most virulent strain among the four serotypes. Interestingly, it is also in strains of this serotype that temperature-dependent large-scale morphological changes, termed “breathing,” have been observed. Although the structure of these morphologies has been solved to 3.5-Å resolution, the dynamics of the viral envelope are unknown.
Histidine kinases (HKs) funnel diverse environmental stimuli into a single autophosphorylation event at a conserved histidine residue. The HK EnvZ is a global sensor of osmolality and cellular acid pH. In previous studies, we discovered that osmosensing in EnvZ was mediated through osmolyte-induced stabilization of the partially disordered helical backbone spanning the conserved histidine autophosphorylation site (His243).
Dengue virus (DENV) particles are released from cells in different maturation states. Fully immature DENV (immDENV) is generally non-infectious, but can become infectious when complexed with anti-precursor membrane (prM) protein antibodies. It is unknown how anti-prM antibody-coated particles can undergo membrane fusion since the prM caps the envelope (E) protein fusion loop. Here, we determined cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) maps of the immDENV:anti-prM complex at different pH values, mimicking the extracellular (pH 8.0) or endosomal (pH 5.0) environments.
The 11 kDa, positively charged dengue capsid protein (C protein) exists stably as a homodimer and co-localizes with the viral genome within mature viral particles. Its core is composed of four alpha helices encompassing a small hydrophobic patch that may interact with lipids, but approximately 20% of the protein at the N-terminus is intrinsically disordered, making it challenging to elucidate its conformational landscape.