Protein phosphatase 1α interacts with Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus capsid protein and regulates viral replication through modulation of capsid phosphorylation

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Protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) is a serine/threonine phosphatase which has been implicated in the regulation of a number of viruses, including HIV-1, Ebolavirus, and Rift Valley fever virus. Catalytic subunits of PP1 (PP1α, PP1β, and PP1γ) interact with a host of regulatory subunits and target a wide variety of cellular substrates through a combination of short binding motifs, including an RVxF motif present in the majority of PP1 regulatory subunits. Targeting the RVxF-interacting site on PP1 with the small molecule 1E7-03 inhibits HIV-1, Ebolavirus, and Rift Valley fever virus replication. In this study, we determined the effect of PP1 on Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) replication. Treatment of VEEV-infected cells with 1E7-03 decreased viral replication by more than 2 logs (50% effective concentration [EC50] = 0.6 μM). 1E7-03 treatment reduced viral titers starting at 8 h postinfection. Viral replication was also decreased after treatment with PP1α-targeting small interfering RNA (siRNA). Confocal microscopy demonstrated that PP1α shuttles toward the cytosol during infection with VEEV and that PP1α colocalizes with VEEV capsid. Coimmunoprecipitation experiments confirmed VEEV capsid interaction with PP1α. Furthermore, immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry data showed that VEEV capsid is phosphorylated and that phosphorylation is moderated by PP1α. Finally, less viral RNA is associated with capsid after treatment with 1E7-03. Coupled with data showing that 1E7-03 inhibits several alphaviruses, this study indicates that inhibition of the PP1α RVxF binding pocket is a promising therapeutic target and provides novel evidence that PP1α modulation of VEEV capsid phosphorylation influences viral replication.

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