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).
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.