Mechanism of tetherin inhibition of alphavirus release

Judy J. Wan, Yaw Shin Ooi, Margaret Kielian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Tetherin is an interferon-inducible, antiviral host factor that broadly restricts enveloped virus release by tethering budded viral particles to the plasma membrane. In response, many viruses have evolved tetherin antagonists. The human tetherin gene can express two isoforms, long and short, due to alternative translation initiation sites in the N-terminal cytoplasmic tail. The long isoform (L-tetherin) contains 12 extra amino acids in its N terminus, including a dual tyrosine motif (YDYCRV) that is an internalization signal for clathrin-mediated endocytosis and a determinant of NF-B activation. Tetherin restricts alphaviruses, which are highly organized enveloped RNA viruses that bud from the plasma membrane. L-tetherin is more efficient than S-tetherin in inhibiting alphavirus release in 293 cells. Here, we demonstrated that alphaviruses do not encode an antagonist for either of the tetherin isoforms. Instead, the isoform specificity reflected a requirement for tetherin endocytosis. The YXY motif in L-tetherin was necessary for alphavirus restriction in 293 cells but was not required for rhabdovirus restriction. L-tetherin’s inhibition of alphavirus release correlated with its internalization but did not involve NF-B activation. In contrast, in U-2 OS cells, the YXY motif and the L-tetherin N-terminal domain were not required for either robust tetherin internalization or alphavirus inhibition. Tetherin forms that were negative for restriction accumulated at the surface of infected cells, while the levels of tetherin forms that restrict were decreased. Together, our results suggest that tetherin-mediated virus internalization plays an important role in the restriction of alphavirus release and that cell-type-specific cofactors may promote tetherin endocytosis. IMPORTANCE The mechanisms of tetherin’s antiviral activities and viral tetherin antagonism have been studied in detail for a number of different viruses. Although viral countermeasures against tetherin can differ significantly, overall, tetherin’s antiviral activity correlates with physical tethering of virus particles to prevent their release. While tetherin can mediate virus endocytic uptake and clearance, this has not been observed to be required for restriction. Here we show that efficient tetherin inhibition of alphavirus release requires efficient tetherin endocytosis. Our data suggest that this endocytic uptake can be mediated by tetherin itself or by a tetherin cofactor that promotes uptake of an endocytosis-deficient variant of tetherin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02165
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2019


  • Alphavirus
  • Antagonism
  • Budding
  • Tetherin
  • Virus production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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