Pulkkinen LIA, Barrass SV, Lindgren M, Pace H, Överby AK, Anastasina M, Bally M, Lundmark R, Butcher SJ
PLoS Pathog. 19 (2) e1011125 [2023-02-00; online 2023-02-14]
Tick-borne encephalitis virus is an enveloped, pathogenic, RNA virus in the family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus. Viral particles are formed when the nucleocapsid, consisting of an RNA genome and multiple copies of the capsid protein, buds through the endoplasmic reticulum membrane and acquires the viral envelope and the associated proteins. The coordination of the nucleocapsid components to the sites of assembly and budding are poorly understood. Here, we investigate the interactions of the wild-type and truncated capsid proteins with membranes with biophysical methods and model membrane systems. We show that capsid protein initially binds membranes via electrostatic interactions with negatively-charged lipids, which is followed by membrane insertion. Additionally, we show that membrane-bound capsid protein can recruit viral genomic RNA. We confirm the biological relevance of the biophysical findings by using mass spectrometry to show that purified virions contain negatively-charged lipids. Our results suggest that nucleocapsid assembly is coordinated by negatively-charged membrane patches on the endoplasmic reticulum and that the capsid protein mediates direct contacts between the nucleocapsid and the membrane.