Viral PIC-pocketing: RSV sequestration of translational preinitiation complexes into bi-phasic biomolecular condensates

Orthopneumoviruses characteristically form membrane-less cytoplasmic inclusion bodies (IBs) wherein RNA replication and transcription occur. Here, we report a strategy whereby the orthopneumoviruses sequester various components of the translational preinitiation complex machinery into viral inclusion bodies to facilitate translation of their own mRNAs-PIC-pocketing. Electron microscopy of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-infected cells revealed bi-phasic organization of IBs, specifically, spherical "droplets" nested within the larger inclusion. Using correlative light and electron microscopy, combined with fluorescence in situ hybridization, we showed that the observed bi-phasic morphology represents functional compartmentalization of the inclusion body and that these domains are synonymous with the previously reported inclusion body-associated granules (IBAGs). Detailed analysis demonstrated that IBAGs concentrate nascent viral mRNA, the viral M2-1 protein as well as components of eukaryotic translation initiation factors (eIF), eIF4F and eIF3, and 40S complexes involved in translation initiation. Interestingly, although ribopuromycylation-based imaging indicates that the majority of viral mRNA translation occurs in the cytoplasm, there was some evidence for intra-IBAG translation, consistent with the likely presence of ribosomes in a subset of IBAGs imaged by electron microscopy. Mass spectrometry analysis of sub-cellular fractions from RSV-infected cells identified significant modification of the cellular translation machinery; however, interestingly, ribopuromycylation assays showed no changes to global levels of translation. The mechanistic basis for this pathway was subsequently determined to involve the viral M2-1 protein interacting with eIF4G, likely to facilitate its transport between the cytoplasm and the separate phases of the viral inclusion body. In summary, our data show that these viral organelles function to spatially regulate early steps in viral translation within a highly selective bi-phasic biomolecular condensate.

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