Molecular recognition of human ephrinB2 cell surface receptor by an emergent African henipavirus
Lee B., Pernet O., Ahmed AA., Zeltina A., Beaty SM., Bowden TA.
The discovery of African henipaviruses (HNVs) related to pathogenic Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV) from Southeast Asia and Australia presents an open-ended health risk. Cell receptor use by emerging African HNVs at the stage of host-cell entry is a key parameter when considering the potential for spillover and infection of human populations. The attachment glycoprotein from a Ghanaian bat isolate (GhV-G) exhibits <30% sequence identity with Asiatic NiV-G/HeV-G. Here, through functional and structural analysis of GhV-G, we show how this African HNV targets the same human cell-surface receptor (ephrinB2) as the Asiatic HNVs. We first characterized this virus−receptor interaction crystallographically. Compared with extant HNV-G–ephrinB2 structures, there was significant structural variation in the six-bladed β-propeller scaffold of the GhV-G receptor-binding domain, but not the Greek key fold of the bound ephrinB2. Analysis revealed a surprisingly conserved mode of ephrinB2 interaction that reflects an ongoing evolutionary constraint among geographically distal and phylogenetically divergent HNVs to maintain the functionality of ephrinB2 recognition during virus–host entry. Interestingly, unlike NiV-G/HeV-G, we could not detect binding of GhV-G to ephrinB3. Comparative structure–function analysis further revealed several distinguishing features of HNV-G function: a secondary ephrinB2 interaction site that contributes to more efficient ephrinB2-mediated entry in NiV-G relative to GhV-G and cognate residues at the very C terminus of GhV-G (absent in Asiatic HNV-Gs) that are vital for efficient receptor-induced fusion, but not receptor binding per se. These data provide molecular-level details for evaluating the likelihood of African HNVs to spill over into human populations.