Protein function is dynamically controlled by post-translation events. A common regulatory mechanism is the phosphorylation and subsequent conformational rearrangement of target proteins. Viral proteins are often controlled by the same pathways that target proteins encoded by the host. The replication cycle of influenza A virus is influenced by host proteins and provides a unique system in which to study these processes. A major target of regulation is the influenza virus replication machinery containing viral RNA, nucleoprotein (NP), and the trimeric polymerase composed of the proteins PB1, PB2, and PA. The replication machinery controls the ordered transition from gene expression to genome replication that is essential for a productive infection. In addition, the viral polymerase is a key determinant in the host range of influenza virus and restricts the transmission of influenza virus from avian to human populations. The processes controlling the replication machinery and the interplay between the polymerase and the host are poorly understood. We propose an integrative approach using biochemical, genetic, and structural studies to determine the host proteins and molecular mechanisms that regulate the influenza replication machinery. Specifically, Aim 1 will identify sites of phosphorylation within viral proteins and examine the functional consequences of phosphorylation on virus replication and the determination of host range.
Aim 2 will use genetic mapping and high-resolution crystal structures to characterize in detail the protein interfaces of the replication complex and elucidate the conformational changes that accompany complex assembly. Finally, Aim 3 will exploit loss-of-function screens to identify cellular proteins that regulate the influenza polymerase and control transmission of influenza from birds to humans. Importantly, each Aim presents significant opportunities for training in new techniques essential for the Independent phase of the application. These studies will provide crucial insight into the viral and host factors controlling influenza replication and will provide the foundation for rational strategies to treat and prevent future influenza outbreaks in humans. Relevance: The influenza virus replication machinery is a key player in establishing infection and determining its pathogenicity. These studies will provide insight into the regulation of the influenza replication machinery, how it controls transmission of influenza virus from birds to humans, and may ultimately identify new targets for therapeutic intervention.
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