Publications by Nicole Robb


Real-time analysis of single influenza virus replication complexes reveals large promoter-dependent differences in initiation dynamics

Nucleic Acids Research Oxford University Press (OUP) (0)

NC Robb, AJW te Velthuis, E Fodor, AN Kapanidis


Splicing of influenza A virus NS1 mRNA is independent of the viral NS1 protein.

J Gen Virol 91 (2010) 2331-2340

NC Robb, D Jackson, FT Vreede, E Fodor

RNA segment 8 (NS) of influenza A virus encodes two proteins. The NS1 protein is translated from the unspliced primary mRNA transcript, whereas the second protein encoded by this segment, NS2/NEP, is translated from a spliced mRNA. Splicing of influenza NS1 mRNA is thought to be regulated so that the levels of NS2 spliced transcripts are approximately 10 % of total NS mRNA. Regulation of splicing of the NS1 mRNA has been studied at length, and a number of often-contradictory control mechanisms have been proposed. In this study, we used (32)P-labelled gene-specific primers to investigate influenza A NS1 mRNA splicing regulation. It was found that the efficiency of splicing of NS1 mRNA was maintained at similar levels in both virus infection and ribonucleoprotein-reconstitution assays, and NS2 mRNA comprised approximately 15 % of total NS mRNA in both assays. The effect of NS1 protein expression on the accumulation of viral NS2 mRNA and spliced cellular beta-globin mRNA was analysed, and it was found that NS1 protein expression reduced spliced beta-globin mRNA levels, but had no effect on the accumulation of NS2 mRNA. We conclude that the NS1 protein specifically inhibits the accumulation of cellular RNA polymerase II-driven mRNAs, but does not affect the splicing of its own viral NS1 mRNA.


Functional analysis of the influenza virus H5N1 nucleoprotein tail loop reveals amino acids that are crucial for oligomerization and ribonucleoprotein activities

Journal of Virology 84 (2010) 7337-7345

WH Chan, AKL Ng, NC Robb, MKH Lam, PKS Chan, SWN Au, JH Wang, E Fodor, PC Shaw

Homo-oligomerization of the nucleoprotein (NP) of influenza A virus is crucial for providing a major structural framework for the assembly of viral ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles. The nucleoprotein is also essential for transcription and replication during the virus life cycle. In the H5N1 NP structure, the tail loop region is important for NP to form oligomers. Here, by an RNP reconstitution assay, we identified eight NP mutants that had different degrees of defects in forming functional RNPs, with the RNP activities of four mutants being totally abolished (E339A, V408S P410S, R416A, and L418S P419S mutants) and the RNP activities of the other four mutants being more than 50% decreased (R267A, I406S, R422A, and E449A mutants). Further characterization by static light scattering showed that the totally defective protein variants existed as monomers in vitro, deviating from the trimeric/oligomeric form of wild-type NP. The I406S, R422A, and E449A variants existed as a mixture of unstable oligomers, thus resulting in a reduction of RNP activity. Although the R267A variant existed as a monomer in vitro, it resumed an oligomeric form upon the addition of RNA and retained a certain degree of RNP activity. Our data suggest that there are three factors that govern the NP oligomerization event: (i) interaction between the tail loop and the insertion groove, (ii) maintenance of the tail loop conformation, and (iii) stabilization of the NP homo-oligomer. The work presented here provides information for the design of NP inhibitors for combating influenza virus infection. Copyright © 2010, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


NS reassortment of an H7-type highly pathogenic avian influenza virus affects its propagation by altering the regulation of viral RNA production and antiviral host response.

Journal of Virology 84 (2010) 11323-11335

Z Wang, NC Robb, E Lenz, T Wolff, E Fodor, S Pleschka

Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIV) with reassorted NS segments from H5- and H7-type avian virus strains placed in the genetic background of the A/FPV/Rostock/34 HPAIV (FPV; H7N1) were generated by reverse genetics. Virological characterizations demonstrated that the growth kinetics of the reassortant viruses differed from that of wild-type (wt) FPV and depended on whether cells were of mammalian or avian origin. Surprisingly, molecular analysis revealed that the different reassortant NS segments were not only responsible for alterations in the antiviral host response but also affected viral genome replication and transcription as well as nuclear ribonucleoprotein (RNP) export. RNP reconstitution experiments demonstrated that the effects on accumulation levels of viral RNA species were dependent on the specific NS segment as well as on the genetic background of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). Beta interferon (IFN-β) expression and the induction of apoptosis were found to be inversely correlated with the magnitude of viral growth, while the NS allele, virus subtype, and nonstructural protein NS1 expression levels showed no correlation. Thus, these results demonstrate that the origin of the NS segment can have a dramatic effect on the replication efficiency and host range of HPAIV. Overall, our data suggest that the propagation of NS reassortant influenza viruses is affected at multiple steps of the viral life cycle as a result of the different effects of the NS1 protein on multiple viral and host functions.


NS reassortment of an H7-type highly pathogenic avian influenza virus affects its propagation by altering the regulation of viral RNA production and antiviral host response

Journal of Virology 84 (2010) 11323-11335

Z Wang, NC Robb, E Lenz, T Wolff, E Fodor, S Pleschka

Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIV) with reassorted NS segments from H5- and H7-type avian virus strains placed in the genetic background of the A/FPV/Rostock/34 HPAIV (FPV; H7N1) were generated by reverse genetics. Virological characterizations demonstrated that the growth kinetics of the reassortant viruses differed from that of wild-type (wt) FPV and depended on whether cells were of mammalian or avian origin. Surprisingly, molecular analysis revealed that the different reassortant NS segments were not only responsible for alterations in the antiviral host response but also affected viral genome replication and transcription as well as nuclear ribonucleoprotein (RNP) export. RNP reconstitution experiments demonstrated that the effects on accumulation levels of viral RNA species were dependent on the specific NS segment as well as on the genetic background of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). Beta interferon (IFN-β) expression and the induction of apoptosis were found to be inversely correlated with the magnitude of viral growth, while the NS allele, virus subtype, and nonstructural protein NS1 expression levels showed no correlation. Thus, these results demonstrate that the origin of the NS segment can have a dramatic effect on the replication efficiency and host range of HPAIV. Overall, our data suggest that the propagation of NS reassortant influenza viruses is affected at multiple steps of the viral life cycle as a result of the different effects of the NS1 protein on multiple viral and host functions. Copyright © 2010, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


Functional analysis of the influenza virus H5N1 nucleoprotein tail loop reveals amino acids that are crucial for oligomerization and ribonucleoprotein activities.

Journal of virology 84 (2010) 7337-7345

W-H Chan, AK-L Ng, NC Robb, MK-H Lam, PK-S Chan, SW-N Au, J-H Wang, E Fodor, P-C Shaw

Homo-oligomerization of the nucleoprotein (NP) of influenza A virus is crucial for providing a major structural framework for the assembly of viral ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles. The nucleoprotein is also essential for transcription and replication during the virus life cycle. In the H5N1 NP structure, the tail loop region is important for NP to form oligomers. Here, by an RNP reconstitution assay, we identified eight NP mutants that had different degrees of defects in forming functional RNPs, with the RNP activities of four mutants being totally abolished (E339A, V408S P410S, R416A, and L418S P419S mutants) and the RNP activities of the other four mutants being more than 50% decreased (R267A, I406S, R422A, and E449A mutants). Further characterization by static light scattering showed that the totally defective protein variants existed as monomers in vitro, deviating from the trimeric/oligomeric form of wild-type NP. The I406S, R422A, and E449A variants existed as a mixture of unstable oligomers, thus resulting in a reduction of RNP activity. Although the R267A variant existed as a monomer in vitro, it resumed an oligomeric form upon the addition of RNA and retained a certain degree of RNP activity. Our data suggest that there are three factors that govern the NP oligomerization event: (i) interaction between the tail loop and the insertion groove, (ii) maintenance of the tail loop conformation, and (iii) stabilization of the NP homo-oligomer. The work presented here provides information for the design of NP inhibitors for combating influenza virus infection.


NS2/NEP protein regulates transcription and replication of the influenza virus RNA genome

Journal of General Virology 90 (2009) 1398-1407

NC Robb, M Smith, FT Vreede, E Fodor

The influenza virus RNA polymerase transcribes the negative-sense viral RNA segments (vRNA) into mRNA and replicates them via complementary RNA (cRNA) intermediates into more copies of vRNA. It is not clear how the relative amounts of the three RNA products, mRNA, cRNA and vRNA, are regulated during the viral life cycle. We found that in viral ribonucleoprotein (vRNP) reconstitution assays involving only the minimal components required for viral transcription and replication (the RNA polymerase, the nucleoprotein and a vRNA template), the relative levels of accumulation of RNA products differed from those observed in infected cells, suggesting a regulatory role for additional viral proteins. Expression of the viral NS2/NEP protein in RNP reconstitution assays affected viral RNA levels by reducing the accumulation of transcription products and increasing the accumulation of replication products to more closely resemble those found during viral infection. This effect was functionally conserved in influenza A and B viruses and was influenza-virus-type-specific, demonstrating that the NS2/NEP protein changes RNA levels by specific alteration of the viral transcription and replication machinery, rather than through an indirect effect on the host cell. Although NS2/NEP has been shown previously to play a role in the nucleocytoplasmic export of viral RNPs, deletion of the nuclear export sequence region that is required for its transport function did not affect the ability of the protein to regulate RNA levels. A role for the NS2/NEP protein in the regulation of influenza virus transcription and replication that is independent of its viral RNP export function is proposed. © 2009 SGM.


NS2/NEP protein regulates transcription and replication of the influenza virus RNA genome.

The Journal of general virology 90 (2009) 1398-1407

NC Robb, M Smith, FT Vreede, E Fodor

The influenza virus RNA polymerase transcribes the negative-sense viral RNA segments (vRNA) into mRNA and replicates them via complementary RNA (cRNA) intermediates into more copies of vRNA. It is not clear how the relative amounts of the three RNA products, mRNA, cRNA and vRNA, are regulated during the viral life cycle. We found that in viral ribonucleoprotein (vRNP) reconstitution assays involving only the minimal components required for viral transcription and replication (the RNA polymerase, the nucleoprotein and a vRNA template), the relative levels of accumulation of RNA products differed from those observed in infected cells, suggesting a regulatory role for additional viral proteins. Expression of the viral NS2/NEP protein in RNP reconstitution assays affected viral RNA levels by reducing the accumulation of transcription products and increasing the accumulation of replication products to more closely resemble those found during viral infection. This effect was functionally conserved in influenza A and B viruses and was influenza-virus-type-specific, demonstrating that the NS2/NEP protein changes RNA levels by specific alteration of the viral transcription and replication machinery, rather than through an indirect effect on the host cell. Although NS2/NEP has been shown previously to play a role in the nucleocytoplasmic export of viral RNPs, deletion of the nuclear export sequence region that is required for its transport function did not affect the ability of the protein to regulate RNA levels. A role for the NS2/NEP protein in the regulation of influenza virus transcription and replication that is independent of its viral RNP export function is proposed.

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