PLoS Pathogens (Sep 2022)

Myxoma virus lacking the host range determinant M062 stimulates cGAS-dependent type 1 interferon response and unique transcriptomic changes in human monocytes/macrophages.

  • Steven J Conrad,
  • Tahseen Raza,
  • Erich A Peterson,
  • Jason Liem,
  • Richard Connor,
  • Bernice Nounamo,
  • Martin Cannon,
  • Jia Liu

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 18, no. 9
p. e1010316


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The evolutionarily successful poxviruses possess effective and diverse strategies to circumvent or overcome host defense mechanisms. Poxviruses encode many immunoregulatory proteins to evade host immunity to establish a productive infection and have unique means of inhibiting DNA sensing-dependent type 1 interferon (IFN-I) responses, a necessity given their dsDNA genome and exclusively cytoplasmic life cycle. We found that the key DNA sensing inhibition by poxvirus infection was dominant during the early stage of poxvirus infection before DNA replication. In an effort to identify the poxvirus gene products which subdue the antiviral proinflammatory responses (e.g., IFN-I response), we investigated the function of one early gene that is the known host range determinant from the highly conserved poxvirus host range C7L superfamily, myxoma virus (MYXV) M062. Host range factors are unique features of poxviruses that determine the species and cell type tropism. Almost all sequenced mammalian poxviruses retain at least one homologue of the poxvirus host range C7L superfamily. In MYXV, a rabbit-specific poxvirus, the dominant and broad-spectrum host range determinant of the C7L superfamily is the M062R gene. The M062R gene product is essential for MYXV infection in almost all cells tested from different mammalian species and specifically inhibits the function of host Sterile α Motif Domain-containing 9 (SAMD9), as M062R-null (ΔM062R) MYXV causes abortive infection in a SAMD9-dependent manner. In this study we investigated the immunostimulatory property of the ΔM062R. We found that the replication-defective ΔM062R activated host DNA sensing pathway during infection in a cGAS-dependent fashion and that knocking down SAMD9 expression attenuated proinflammatory responses. Moreover, transcriptomic analyses showed a unique feature of the host gene expression landscape that is different from the dsDNA alone-stimulated inflammatory state. This study establishes a link between the anti-neoplastic function of SAMD9 and the regulation of innate immune responses.