Murine hepatitis virus nsp14 exoribonuclease activity is required for resistance to innate immunity.

James Brett Case, Yize Li, Ruth Elliott, Xiaotao Lu, Kevin W. Graepel, Nicole R. Sexton, Everett Clinton Smith, Susan R. Weiss, Mark R. Denison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Coronaviruses (CoVs) are positive-sense RNA viruses that infect numerous mammalian and avian species and are capable of causing severe and lethal disease in humans. CoVs encode several innate immune antagonists that counteract the host innate immune response to facilitate efficient viral replication. CoV nonstructural protein 14 (nsp14) encodes 3=-to-5= exoribonuclease activity (ExoN), which performs a proofreading function and is required for high-fidelity replication. Outside of the order Nidovirales, arenaviruses are the only RNA viruses that encode an ExoN, which functions to degrade double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) replication intermediates. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that CoV ExoN also functions to antagonize the innate immune response. We demonstrate that viruses lacking ExoN activity [ExoN(-)] are sensitive to cellular pretreatment with interferon beta (IFN-β) in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, ExoN(-) virus replication was attenuated in wild-type bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMMs) and partially restored in interferon alpha/beta receptor-deficient (IFNAR-/-) BMMs. ExoN(-) virus replication did not result in IFN-β gene expression, and in the presence of an IFN-β-mediated antiviral state, ExoN(-) viral RNA levels were not substantially reduced relative to those of untreated samples. However, ExoN(-) virus generated from IFN-β-pretreated cells had reduced specific infectivity and decreased relative fitness, suggesting that ExoN(-) virus generated during an antiviral state is less viable to establish a subsequent infection. Overall, our data suggest murine hepatitis virus (MHV) ExoN activity is required for resistance to the innate immune response, and antiviral mechanisms affecting the viral RNA sequence and/or an RNA modification act on viruses lacking ExoN activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01531-17
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Coronavirus
  • ExoN
  • Exoribonuclease
  • Innate immunity
  • Interferon
  • MHV

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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