Functional characterization of Microplitis demolitor bracovirus genes that encode nucleocapsid

Fig 2 Virion morphogenesis (phases 1–4) in calyx cells from newly emerged adult females injected with ds-eGFP (control) (A–D) or ds-vp39 (E–H).


Bracoviruses (BVs) are endogenized nudiviruses in parasitoid wasps of the microgastroid complex (order Hymenoptera: Family Braconidae). BVs produce replication-defective virions that adult female wasps use to transfer DNAs encoding virulence genes to parasitized hosts. Some BV genes are shared with nudiviruses and baculoviruses with studies of the latter providing insights on function, whereas other genes are only known from nudiviruses or other BVs which provide no functional insights. A proteomic analysis of Microplitis demolitor bracovirus (MdBV) virions recently identified 16 genes encoding nucleocapsid components. In this study, we further characterized most of these genes. Some nucleocapsid genes exhibited early or intermediate expression profiles, while others exhibited late expression profiles. RNA interference (RNAi) assays together with transmission electron microscopy indicated vp39HzNVorf9-like2HzNVorf93-likeHzNVorf106-likeHzNVorf118-likeand 27b are required to produce capsids with a normal barrel-shaped morphology. RNAi knockdown of vlf-1avlf-1b-1vlf-1b-2int-1, and p6.9-1 did not alter the formation of barrel-shaped capsids but each reduced processing of amplified proviral segments and DNA packaging as evidenced by the formation of electron translucent capsids. All of the genes required for normal capsid assembly were also required for proviral segment processing and DNA packaging. Collectively, our results deorphanize several BV genes with previously unknown roles in virion morphogenesis.IMPORTANCEUnderstanding how bracoviruses (BVs) function in wasps is of broad interest in the study of virus evolution. This study characterizes most of the Microplitis demolitor bracovirus (MdBV) genes whose products are nucleocapsid components. Results indicate several genes unknown outside of nudiviruses and BVs are essential for normal capsid assembly. Results also indicate most MdBV tyrosine recombinase family members and the DNA binding protein p6.9-1 are required for DNA processing and packaging into nucleocapsids.

Ange Lorenzi, Michael J Arvin, Gaelen R Burke, Michael R Strand. J Virol. 2023 Oct 25:e0081723. doi: 10.1128/jvi.00817-23.