Structure of Merkel cell polyomavirus capsid and interaction with its 2 glycosaminoglycan attachment receptor

Niklas J. BayerDovile JanulieneGeorg ZocherThilo StehleArne MoellerBärbel S. Blaum

Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) is a human double-stranded DNA tumor virus. MCPyV cell entry is unique among the polyomavirus family as it requires the engagement of two types of glycans, sialylated oligosaccharides and sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Here, we present crystallographic and cryo-electron microscopic structures of the icosahedral MCPyV capsid and analysis of its glycan interactions via NMR spectroscopy. While sialic acid binding is specific for α2-3-linked sialic acid and mediated by the exposed apical loops of the major capsid protein VP1, a broad range of GAG oligosaccharides bind to recessed regions between VP1 capsomers. Individual VP1 capsomers are tethered to one another by an extensive disulfide network that differs in architecture from previously-described interactions for other PyVs. An unusual C-terminal extension in MCPyV VP1 projects from the recessed capsid regions. Mutagenesis experiments show that this extension is dispensable for receptor interaction.

DOI: 10.1128/JVI.01664-19
PMID: 32699083

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