Binding of the Duck Tembusu Virus Protease to STING Is Mediated by NS2B and Is Crucial for STING Cleavage and for Impaired Induction of IFN-β
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Duck Tembusu virus (DTMUV) is a newly emerged causative agent of avian disease. The protease-dependent immune evasion of flaviviruses has been reported; however, the molecular details of this process are unclear. In this study, we found that DTMUV nonstructural protein 2B-3, a NS2B3 protease, can inhibit IFN-β production. DTMUV NS2B3 inhibited RIG-I-, MDA5-, MAVS-, and STING-directed IFN-β transcription, but not TBK1- and IRF7-mediated induction of IFN-β. Further analysis showed that DTMUV NS2B3 could cleave duck STING (duSTING); the cleavage was dependent on the protease activity of NS2B3. Moreover, the STING cleavage event occurred in a not-strictly-species-specific manner. The scissile bond of duSTING cleaved by NS2B3 was mapped between the R84 and G85 residues. The ability of NS2B3 to reduce duSTING cleavage-resistant mutant-mediated IFN-β, and ISG production was significantly reduced, demonstrating that duSTING cleavage is essential for NS2B3-induced suppression of type I IFN responses. Remarkably, the binding of NS2B3 to duSTING, which is a prerequisite for cleavage, was found to depend on NS2B, but not NS3, the cofactor of the enzyme. Unexpectedly, we found that the region between aa residues 221-225 of duSTING, distal from the site of the scissile bond, was essential for the binding of NS2B3 to duSTING and/or the cleavage of duSTING by NS2B3. Thus, we identified the molecular mechanism by which DTMUV subverts the host innate immunity using its protease. More importantly, our study provides insight into NS2B3-mediated STING cleavage events in general.
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