Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) causes significant economic losses for the swine industry worldwide. The PRRSV E protein, encoded by ORF 2b, is one of the non-glycosylated minor structural proteins. In this study, we present evidence for the interaction of the E protein with mitochondrial proteins ATP5A (part of ATP synthase complex), prohibitin, and ADP/ATP translocase. We additionally demonstrate partial mitochondrial localization of the E protein in transfected cells. To functionally investigate these interactions, we infected MARC-145 cells with PRRSV or alphavirus replicon particles (VRPs) expressing PRRSV E protein. In infected cells, production of ATP was significantly reduced. The E protein also induced apoptosis by activating caspase-3, which results in PARP cleavage. Taken together, these data suggest that the PRRSV E protein interacts with mitochondrial proteins and induces apoptosis by inhibiting ATP production.
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