A proline-rich motif within the matrix protein of vesicular stomatitis virus and rabies virus interacts with WW domains of cellular proteins: implications for viral budding.
The matrix (M) protein of rhabdoviruses has been shown to play a key role in virus assembly and budding; however, the precise mechanism by which M mediates these processes remains unclear. We have associated a highly conserved, proline-rich motif (PPxY or PY motif, where P denotes proline, Y represents tyrosine, and x denotes any amino acid) of rhabdoviral M proteins with a possible role in budding mediated by the M protein. Point mutations that disrupt the PY motif of the M protein of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) have no obvious effect on membrane localization of M but instead lead to a decrease in the amount of M protein released from cells in a functional budding assay. Interestingly, the PPxY sequence within rhabdoviral M proteins is identical to that of the ligand which interacts with WW domains of cellular proteins. Indeed, results from two in vitro binding assays demonstrate that amino acids 17 through 33 and 29 through 44, which contain the PY motifs of VSV and rabies virus M proteins, respectively, mediate interactions with WW domains of specific cellular proteins. Point mutations that disrupt the consensus PY motif of VSV or rabies virus M protein result in a significant decrease in their ability to interact with the WW domains. These properties of the PY motif of rhabdovirus M proteins are strikingly analogous to those of the late (L) budding domain identified in the gag-specific protein p2b of Rous sarcoma virus. Thus, it is possible that rhabdoviruses may usurp host proteins to facilitate the budding process and that late stages in the budding process of rhabdoviruses and retroviruses may have features in common.