All Publications

  • Acyl-Coa Thioesterases: A Rheostat That Controls Activated Fatty Acids Modulates Dengue Virus Serotype 2 Replication VIRUSES-BASEL St Clair, L. A., Mills, S. A., Lian, E., Soma, P. S., Nag, A., Montgomery, C., Ramirez, G., Chotiwan, N., Gullberg, R. C., Perera, R. 2022; 14 (2)


    During infection with dengue viruses (DENVs), the lipid landscape within host cells is significantly altered to assemble membrane platforms that support viral replication and particle assembly. Fatty acyl-CoAs are key intermediates in the biosynthesis of complex lipids that form these membranes. They also function as key signaling lipids in the cell. Here, we carried out loss of function studies on acyl-CoA thioesterases (ACOTs), a family of enzymes that hydrolyze fatty acyl-CoAs to free fatty acids and coenzyme A, to understand their influence on the lifecycle of DENVs. The loss of function of the type I ACOTs 1 (cytoplasmic) and 2 (mitochondrial) together significantly increased DENV serotype 2 (DENV2) viral replication and infectious particle release. However, isolated knockdown of mitochondrial ACOT2 significantly decreased DENV2 protein translation, genome replication, and infectious virus release. Furthermore, loss of ACOT7 function, a mitochondrial type II ACOT, similarly suppressed DENV2. As ACOT1 and ACOT2 are splice variants, these data suggest that functional differences and substrate specificities due to the location (cytosol and mitochondria, respectively) of these proteins may account for the differences in DENV2 infection phenotype. Additionally, loss of mitochondrial ACOT2 and ACOT7 expression also altered the expression of several ACOTs located in multiple organelle compartments within the cell, highlighting a complex relationship between ACOTs in the DENV2 virus lifecycle.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/v14020240

    View details for Web of Science ID 000762018400001

    View details for PubMedID 35215835

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8875275

  • Experimental Zika virus infection of Jamaican fruit bats (Artibeus jamaicensis) and possible entry of virus into brain via activated microglial cells. PLoS neglected tropical diseases Malmlov, A., Bantle, C., Aboellail, T., Wagner, K., Campbell, C. L., Eckley, M., Chotiwan, N., Gullberg, R. C., Perera, R., Tjalkens, R., Schountz, T. 2019; 13 (2): e0007071


    The emergence of Zika virus (ZIKV) in the New World has led to more than 200,000 human infections. Perinatal infection can cause severe neurological complications, including fetal and neonatal microcephaly, and in adults there is an association with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). ZIKV is transmitted to humans by Aedes sp. mosquitoes, yet little is known about its enzootic cycle in which transmission is thought to occur between arboreal Aedes sp. mosquitos and non-human primates. In the 1950s and '60s, several bat species were shown to be naturally and experimentally susceptible to ZIKV with acute viremia and seroconversion, and some developed neurological disease with viral antigen detected in the brain. Because of ZIKV emergence in the Americas, we sought to determine susceptibility of Jamaican fruit bats (Artibeus jamaicensis), one of the most common bats in the New World. Bats were inoculated with ZIKV PRVABC59 but did not show signs of disease. Bats held to 28 days post-inoculation (PI) had detectable antibody by ELISA and viral RNA was detected by qRT-PCR in the brain, saliva and urine in some of the bats. Immunoreactivity using polyclonal anti-ZIKV antibody was detected in testes, brain, lung and salivary glands plus scrotal skin. Tropism for mononuclear cells, including macrophages/microglia and fibroblasts, was seen in the aforementioned organs in addition to testicular Leydig cells. The virus likely localized to the brain via infection of Iba1+ macrophage/microglial cells. Jamaican fruit bats, therefore, may be a useful animal model for the study of ZIKV infection. This work also raises the possibility that bats may have a role in Zika virus ecology in endemic regions, and that ZIKV may pose a wildlife disease threat to bat populations.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pntd.0007071

    View details for PubMedID 30716104

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6382173

  • ZIKA VIRUS INFECTION INDUCES DETECTABLE METABOLIC ALTERATIONS IN HUMANS Byers, N. M., Fitzgerald, B. L., Petersen, L. R., Fleshman, A. C., Graham, B., Gullberg, R. C., Perera, R., Busch, M. P., Stone, M., Molins, C. R. AMER SOC TROP MED & HYGIENE. 2019: 256
  • Stearoly-CoA desaturase 1 differentiates early and advanced dengue virus infections and determines virus particle infectivity. PLoS pathogens Gullberg, R. C., Steel, J. J., Pujari, V., Rovnak, J., Crick, D. C., Perera, R. 2018; 14 (8): e1007261


    Positive strand RNA viruses, such as dengue virus type 2 (DENV2) expand and structurally alter ER membranes to optimize cellular communication pathways that promote viral replicative needs. These complex rearrangements require significant protein scaffolding as well as changes to the ER chemical composition to support these structures. We have previously shown that the lipid abundance and repertoire of host cells are significantly altered during infection with these viruses. Specifically, enzymes in the lipid biosynthesis pathway such as fatty acid synthase (FAS) are recruited to viral replication sites by interaction with viral proteins and displayed enhanced activities during infection. We have now identified that events downstream of FAS (fatty acid desaturation) are critical for virus replication. In this study we screened enzymes in the unsaturated fatty acid (UFA) biosynthetic pathway and found that the rate-limiting enzyme in monounsaturated fatty acid biosynthesis, stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (SCD1), is indispensable for DENV2 replication. The enzymatic activity of SCD1, was required for viral genome replication and particle release, and it was regulated in a time-dependent manner with a stringent requirement early during viral infection. As infection progressed, SCD1 protein expression levels were inversely correlated with the concentration of viral dsRNA in the cell. This modulation of SCD1, coinciding with the stage of viral replication, highlighted its function as a trigger of early infection and an enzyme that controlled alternate lipid requirements during early versus advanced infections. Loss of function of this enzyme disrupted structural alterations of assembled viral particles rendering them non-infectious and immature and defective in viral entry. This study identifies the complex involvement of SCD1 in DENV2 infection and demonstrates that these viruses alter ER lipid composition to increase infectivity of the virus particles.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007261

    View details for PubMedID 30118512

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6114894

  • Dengue viruses cleave STING in humans but not in nonhuman primates, their presumed natural reservoir. eLife Stabell, A. C., Meyerson, N. R., Gullberg, R. C., Gilchrist, A. R., Webb, K. J., Old, W. M., Perera, R., Sawyer, S. L. 2018; 7


    Human dengue viruses emerged from primate reservoirs, yet paradoxically dengue does not reach high titers in primate models. This presents a unique opportunity to examine the genetics of spillover versus reservoir hosts. The dengue virus 2 (DENV2) - encoded protease cleaves human STING, reducing type I interferon production and boosting viral titers in humans. We find that both human and sylvatic (reservoir) dengue viruses universally cleave human STING, but not the STING of primates implicated as reservoir species. The special ability of dengue to cleave STING is thus specific to humans and a few closely related ape species. Conversion of residues 78/79 to the human-encoded 'RG' renders all primate (and mouse) STINGs sensitive to viral cleavage. Dengue viruses may have evolved to increase viral titers in the dense and vast human population, while maintaining decreased titers and pathogenicity in the more rare animals that serve as their sustaining reservoir in nature.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.31919

    View details for PubMedID 29557779

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5860865

  • Murine Efficacy and Pharmacokinetic Evaluation of the Flaviviral NS5 Capping Enzyme 2-Thioxothiazolidin-4-One Inhibitor BG-323. PloS one Bullard, K. M., Gullberg, R. C., Soltani, E., Steel, J. J., Geiss, B. J., Keenan, S. M. 2015; 10 (6): e0130083


    Arthropod-borne flavivirus infection continues to cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Identification of drug targets and novel antiflaviviral compounds to treat these diseases has become a global health imperative. A previous screen of 235,456 commercially available small molecules identified the 2-thioxothiazolidin-4-one family of compounds as inhibitors of the flaviviral NS5 capping enzyme, a promising target for antiviral drug development. Rational drug design methodologies enabled identification of lead compound BG-323 from this series. We have shown previously that BG-323 potently inhibits NS5 capping enzyme activity, displays antiviral effects in dengue virus replicon assays and inhibits growth of West Nile and yellow fever viruses with low cytotoxicity in vitro. In this study we further characterized BG-323's antiviral activity in vitro and in vivo. We found that BG-323 was able to reduce replication of WNV (NY99) and Powassan viruses in culture, and we were unable to force resistance into WNV (Kunjin) in long-term culture experiments. We then evaluated the antiviral activity of BG-323 in a murine model. Mice were challenged with WNV NY99 and administered BG-323 or mock by IP inoculation immediately post challenge and twice daily thereafter. Mice were bled and viremia was quantified on day three. No significant differences in viremia were observed between BG-323-treated and control groups and clinical scores indicated both BG-323-treated and control mice developed signs of illness on approximately the same day post challenge. To determine whether differences in in vitro and in vivo efficacy were due to unfavorable pharmacokinetic properties of BG-323, we conducted a pharmacokinetic evaluation of this small molecule. Insights from pharmacokinetic studies indicate that BG-323 is cell permeable, has a low efflux ratio and does not significantly inhibit two common cytochrome P450 (CYP P450) isoforms thus suggesting this molecule may be less likely to cause adverse drug interactions. However, the T1/2 of BG-323 was suboptimal and the percent of drug bound to plasma binding proteins was high. Future studies with BG-323 will be aimed at increasing the T1/2 and determining strategies for mitigating the effects of high plasma protein binding, which likely contribute to low in vivo efficacy.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0130083

    View details for PubMedID 26075394

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4468182

  • Oxidative stress influences positive strand RNA virus genome synthesis and capping. Virology Gullberg, R. C., Jordan Steel, J., Moon, S. L., Soltani, E., Geiss, B. J. 2015; 475: 219-29


    Flaviviruses are 5' capped positive-stranded RNA viruses that replicate their genomes within endoplasmic reticulum-derived vesicles. Flaviviruses are well known to induce oxidative stress late in infection but it is unknown if oxidative stress plays a positive role in the viral RNA replication cycle. We therefore examined how oxidation affects flavivirus RNA replication. We found that antioxidant treatment reduced virus production, reduced the viral positive-to-negative strand RNA ratio, and resulted in the accumulation of uncapped positive-sense viral RNAs. Treatment of the NS5 RNA capping enzyme in vitro with oxidizing agents enhanced guanylyltransferase activity, indicating that the guanylyltransferase function of the flavivirus NS5 RNA capping enzyme is activated by oxidative conditions. Antioxidant treatment also reduced alphavirus RNA replication and protein expression while enhancing nsP1 capping activity. These findings suggest that RNA viruses may utilize oxidative stress induced during infection to help temporally control genome RNA capping and genome replication.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.virol.2014.10.037

    View details for PubMedID 25514423

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4332586