Characterization of Hantavirus N Protein Intracellular Dynamics and Localization

Hantaviruses are enveloped viruses that possess a tri-segmented, negative-sense RNA genome. The viral S-segment encodes the multifunctional nucleocapsid protein (N), which is involved in genome packaging, intracellular protein transport, immunoregulation, and several other crucial processes during hantavirus infection. In this study, we generated fluorescently tagged N protein constructs derived from Puumalavirus (PUUV), the dominant hantavirus species in Central, Northern, and Eastern Europe. We comprehensively characterized this protein in the rodent cell line CHO-K1, monitoring the dynamics of N protein complex formation and investigating co-localization with host proteins as well as the viral glycoproteins Gc and Gn. We observed formation of large, fibrillar PUUV N protein aggregates, rapidly coalescing from early punctate and spike-like assemblies. Moreover, we found significant spatial correlation of N with vimentin, actin, and P-bodies but not with microtubules. N constructs also co-localized with Gn and Gc albeit not as strongly as the glycoproteins associated with each other. Finally, we assessed oligomerization of N constructs, observing efficient and concentration-dependent multimerization, with complexes comprising more than 10 individual proteins.


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