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Structural Characterization of Human Norovirus Strain VA387 Virus-like Particles

posted on 2022-12-20, 15:34 authored by Frank S VagoFrank S Vago

Human noroviruses (HuNoVs) are the leading cause of an acute form of non-bacterial gastroenteritis, where strains belonging to genogroup (G) II are dominant. Upon expression with the baculovirus culture system, virus-like particles (VLPs) of HuNoVs are expected to assemble into T = 3 icosahedral capsid particles resembling the structure of the infectious virion particles. However, some strains were found to assemble into either T = 1 or T = 4 capsids, or a combination of two different capsid forms. In this study, we showed that VLPs of the Virginia 1997 387 (VA387) GII.4 outbreak strain assembled into T = 1, T = 3, and T = 4 capsids upon expression in insect cell culture, the first case for a naturally occurring HuNoV strain to assemble into all three capsid states. TEM analysis revealed that T = 1 icosahedral particles were the most abundant in purified samples, which contrasts previous findings where either T = 3 or T = 4 were the most abundant. We resolved the cryo-EM structures of the T = 1 shell (S) domain, T = 3, and T = 4 particles to 2.24, 2.44, and 3.43 Å, respectively, making them the most resolved norovirus (NoV) structures to date. Single particle cryo-EM 3D analysis showed that the protruding (P) domain of T = 1 and T = 4 VLPs are highly dynamic. Additionally, we showed that T = 3 VLPs are resistant while T = 1 and T = 4 VLPs are sensitive to digestion in the presence of trypsin. This suggested that T = 1 and T = 4 capsids are less stable among the VLPs, which is consistent with the highly dynamic P domain inferred from our cryo-EM 3D analysis. During infection, HuNoVs travel through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract where they encounter a broad range of variable conditions that include pH, ionic strength, and host defenses (e.g., proteases). Our analyses suggest that virions are T = 3 particles as they can survive the GI tract upon exiting the host. We determined the first cryo-EM structure of T = 3 VLPs in complex with the known HuNoV host cell receptor, histo-blood group antigen (HBGA), to a resolution of 2.51 Å, demonstrating that NoV VLPs can serve as a platform in the structural characterization of small ligand molecules. Lastly, we identified a histidine residue retained in the S domain of all identified caliciviruses critical in the assembly of capsids. Our structures and their characterization will contribute to the development of therapeutic agents to combat noroviruses. 


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Biological Sciences

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Wen Jiang

Additional Committee Member 2

Leifu Chang

Additional Committee Member 3

Angeline Lyon

Additional Committee Member 4

David Thompson