Evolution-Guided Identification of Antiviral Specificity Determinants in the Broadly Acting Interferon-Induced Innate Immunity Factor MxA.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Cell host & microbe, Volume 12, Issue 4, p.598-604 (2012)


2012, Basic Sciences Division, Center-Authored Paper, Computational Biology Core Facility, Flow Cytometry Core Facility, Genomics Core Facility, Human Biology Division, November 2012, Shared Resources


MxA is an interferon-induced dynamin-like GTPase with wide-ranging antiviral activity, which hinges upon detection of unique viral structures that differ across virus families. Despite elucidation of its structure, the basis of MxA antiviral specificity remains enigmatic. We used an evolution-guided approach to identify the loop L4 of MxA as a hotspot for recurrent positive selection in primates. Further, we show that single amino acid changes in L4 are necessary and sufficient to explain dramatic differences in species-specific antiviral activity of primate MxA proteins against the orthomyxoviruses Thogoto virus and influenza A virus. Taken together, our findings identify a genetic determinant of MxA target recognition and suggest a model by which MxA achieves antiviral breadth without compromising viral specificity.