Dengue and Zika virus capsid proteins contain a common PEX19-binding motif

Flaviviruses such as dengue virus (DENV) and Zika virus (ZIKV) have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to suppress the host immune system. For instance, flavivirus infections were found to sabotage peroxisomes, organelles with an important role in innate immunity. The current model suggests that the capsid (C) proteins of DENV and ZIKV downregulate peroxisomes, ultimately resulting in reduced production of interferons by interacting with the host protein PEX19, a crucial chaperone in peroxisomal biogenesis. Here, we aimed to explore the importance of peroxisomes and the role of C interaction with PEX19 in the flavivirus life cycle. By infecting cells lacking peroxisomes we show that this organelle is required for optimal DENV replication. Moreover, we demonstrate that DENV and ZIKV C bind PEX19 through a conserved PEX19-binding motif, which is also commonly found in cellular peroxisomal membrane proteins (PMPs). However, in contrast to PMPs, this interaction does not result in the targeting of C to peroxisomes. Furthermore, we show that the presence of C results in peroxisome loss due to impaired peroxisomal biogenesis, which appears to occur by a PEX19-independent mechanism. Hence, these findings challenge the current model of how flavivirus C might downregulate peroxisomal abundance and suggest a yet unknown role of peroxisomes in flavivirus biology.

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