Norovirus Translation and Replication
Human norovirus (HuNoV) is the leading cause of gastroenteritis worldwide. Despite the significant disease and economic burden, currently there are no licensed vaccines or antivirals. The understanding of norovirus biology has been hampered by the inability to cultivate HuNoV in cell culture. To establish a tissue culture system, infectious HuNoVs were purified from clinical stool samples. HuNoV replication was tested in different cell types. The B-cell and intestinal organoids culture systems were validated. In addition, using organoids culture a DNA-based reverse genetic system was shown to recover infectious HuNoV. Due to the challenges associated with cultivating HuNoV, murine norovirus (MNV) was used as a surrogate system to understand the role of eIF4E phosphorylation in norovirus pathogenesis, and VP1-RdRp interaction in regulating viral genome replication. MNV infection results in the phosphorylation of the translation initiation factor eIF4E, re-programming host-cell translation during infection. Inhibiting eIF4E phosphorylation reduces MNV replication in cell culture suggesting a role in viral replication. A mouse model with eIF4E S209A, a phosphor-ablative mutation, was established to understand the role of eIF4E phosphorylation in MNV pathogenesis. In vitro and in vivo characterisations demonstrated that eIF4E phosphorylation may have multiple roles in norovirus-host interactions, but overall has little impact on MNV pathogenesis. The shell domain (SD) of norovirus major capsid protein VP1 interacts with viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) in a genogroup-specific manner to enhance de novo initiation of RdRp, and to promote negative-strand RNA synthesis. To understand how VP1 regulates norovirus genome replication, chimeric MNVs with genogroup-specific residues mutagenised were characterised in vitro and in vivo. A single amino acid mutation was shown to destabilise viral capsid. SDs with reduced VP1-RdRp interaction showed less capacity to stimulate RdRp, resulting in delayed virus replication. In vivo, the replication of an MNV-3 with homologous mutations was abolished, highlighting the crucial role of this interaction.