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Human astrovirus is a positive sense, single stranded RNA virus. Astrovirus infection causes gastrointestinal symptoms and can lead to encephalitis in immunocompromised patients. Positive strand RNA viruses typically utilize host intracellular membranes to form replication organelles, which are potential antiviral targets. Many of these replication organelles are double membrane vesicles (DMVs). Here we show that astrovirus infection leads to an increase in DMV formation, and this process is replication-dependent. Our data suggest that astrovirus infection induces rearrangement of endoplasmic reticulum fragments, which may become the origin for DMV formation. Transcriptional data suggested that formation of DMVs during astrovirus infection requires some early components of the autophagy machinery. Results indicate that the upstream class III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) complex, but not LC3 conjugation machinery, is utilized in DMV formation. Inhibition of the PI3K complex leads to significant reduction in viral replication and release from cells. Elucidating the role of autophagy machinery in DMV formation during astrovirus infection reveals a potential target for therapeutic intervention for immunocompromised patients.
These studies provide critical new evidence that astrovirus replication requires formation of double membrane vesicles, which utilize class III PI3K, but not LC3 conjugation autophagy machinery for biogenesis. These results are consistent with replication mechanisms for other positive sense RNA viruses. This suggests that targeting PI3K could be a promising therapeutic option for not only astrovirus, but other positive sense RNA virus infections.