Roles of nonstructural protein nsP2 and alpha/beta interferons in determining the outcome of Sindbis virus infection

Elena I. Frolova, Rafik Z. Fayzulin, Susan H. Cook, Diane E. Griffin, Charles M. Rice, Ilya Frolov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alphaviruses productively infect a variety of vertebrate and insect cell lines. In vertebrate cells, Sindbis virus redirects cellular processes to meet the needs of virus propagation. At the same time, cells respond to virus replication by downregulating virus growth and preventing dissemination of the infection. The balance between these two mechanisms determines the outcome of infection at the cellular and organismal levels. In this report, we demonstrate that a viral nonstructural protein, nsP2, is a significant regulator of Sindbis virus-host cell interactions. This protein not only is a component of the replicative enzyme complex required for replication and transcription of viral RNAs but also plays a role in suppressing the antiviral response in Sindbis virus-infected cells. nsP2 most likely acts by decreasing interferon (IFN) production and minimizing virus visibility. Infection of murine cells with Sindbis virus expressing a mutant nsP2 leads to higher levels of IFN secretion and the activation of 170 cellular genes that are induced by IFN and/or virus replication. Secreted IFN protects naive cells against Sindbis virus infection and also stops viral replication in productively infected cells. Mutations in nsP2 can also attenuate Sindbis virus cytopathogenicity. Such mutants can persist in mammalian cells with defects in the alpha/beta IFN (IFN-α/β) system or when IFN activity is neutralized by anti-IFN-α/β antibodies. These findings provide new insight into the alphavirus-host cell interaction and have implications for the development of improved alphavirus expression systems with better antigen-presenting potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11254-11264
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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