The pandemic 1918 influenza A virus (IAV), also known as the Spanish flu, caused the worst influenza pandemic in human history. Nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) is a multifunctional virulence factor associated with the suppression of anti-viral immune responses and thereby has been identified as one of the molecular determinants of high pathogenicity of the 1918 IAV. NS1 of the 1918 IAV (1918 NS1) contains a proline-rich motif (PRM) that mediates binding with host CrkII with high affinity and selectivity. The 1918 NS1:CrkII interaction plays critical roles in the suppression of host anti-viral immune responses and the enhancement of viral replication. Moreover, NS1s of many avian/swine IAVs contain the CrkII-binding PRM. Given the zoonotic potential of IAVs, there is a critical need to determine the molecular mechanisms by which the interaction of 1918 NS1 and cellular CrkII is regulated. The long-term goal of our research program is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying virus-host protein interactions. Our objectives in this proposal are to determine the structural mechanisms of the 1918 NS1:CrkII interaction, and to determine the molecular and cellular mechanisms whereby the 1918 NS1:CrkII complex induces PI3K activation, resulting in enhanced viral replication. Our central hypothesis is that the 1918 NS1:CrkII complex is structurally dynamic, which is functionally important for the interaction with the p85? regulatory subunit of PI3K. To test this hypothesis, we will determine the structure of the 1918 NS1:CrkII complex and elucidate how the complex interacts with p85? to activate the PI3K signaling pathway. Our rationale for these studies is that the mechanistic understanding of the interactions of 1918 NS1 with CrkII and p85? would help identify previously undiscovered target sites to develop for potential inhibitors against the 1918 NS1. Through a synergistic approach combining small-angle X-ray scattering, NMR spectroscopy, molecular dynamics simulation, and cell-based assays, we will pursue the following specific aims.
Aim 1. To determine the structural mechanism of the 1918 NS1:CrkII interaction using a battery of biophysical experiments. Hijacking and relocation of CrkII into the nucleus is a distinctive feature of the 1918 pandemic IAV NS1. To understand this process, we will reveal structural and energetic mechanisms by which the affinity and lifetime (1/koff) of the 1918 NS1:CrkII complex are modulated.
Aim 2. To determine the molecular mechanism underlying NS1-induced PI3K activation. The 1918 NS1:CrkII interaction markedly enhances NS1-induced PI3K activation; however, its molecular mechanism is unknown. We will seek to comprehensively determine the molecular mechanisms by which the 1918 NS1:CrkII complex interacts with the p85? subunit of PI3K, reveal its functional role in PI3K activation, and identify hotspot NS1 residues that interact with both CrkII and p85?. This study is expected to have a positive impact on the development of anti-viral agents targeting NS1-host protein interactions.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research is relevant to public health because the discovery of the structural and energetic mechanisms by which a viral virulence factor hijacks cellular signaling proteins is ultimately expected to increase understanding of the pathogenicity of influenza viruses and help the development of therapeutics for future influenza pandemics. Thus, the proposed research is relevant to the part of NIH?s mission that pertains to developing fundamental knowledge that will advance understanding of human health and disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Program Officer
Sakalian, Michael
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Texas A&M Agrilife Research
Schools of Arts and Sciences
College Station
United States
Zip Code