Phosphatidylserine within the Viral Membrane Enhances Chikungunya Virus Infectivity in a Cell-type Dependent Manner
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), an alphavirus of the Togaviridae family, is the causative agent of the human disease chikungunya fever (CHIKF), which is characterized by debilitating acute and chronic arthralgia. No licensed vaccines or antivirals exist for CHIKV. Preventing the attachment of viral particles to host cells is an attractive intervention strategy. Viral entry of enveloped viruses from diverse families including Filoviridae and Flaviviridae is mediated or enhanced by phosphatidylserine receptors (PSRs). PSRs facilitate the attachment of enveloped viruses to cells by binding to exposed phosphatidylserine (PS) in the viral lipid membrane - a process termed viral apoptotic mimicry. To investigate the role of viral apoptotic mimicry during CHIKV infection, we produced viral particles with discrete amounts of exposed PS on the virion envelope by exploiting the cellular distribution of phospholipids at the plasma membrane. We found that CHIKV particles containing high outer leaflet PS (produced in cells lacking flippase activity) were more infectious in Vero cells than particles containing low levels of outer leaflet PS (produced in cells lacking scramblase activity). However, the same viral particles were similarly infectious in NIH3T3 and HAP1 cells, suggesting PS levels can influence infectivity only in cells with high levels of PSRs. Interestingly, PS-dependent CHIKV entry was observed in mosquito Aag2 cells, but not C6/36 cells. These data demonstrate that CHIKV entry via viral apoptotic mimicry is cell-type dependent. Furthermore, viral apoptotic mimicry has a mechanistic basis to influence viral dynamics in vivo in both the human and mosquito host.