Asparagine Is a Critical Limiting Metabolite for Vaccinia Virus Protein Synthesis during Glutamine Deprivation. Academic Article uri icon


  • Viruses actively interact with host metabolism because viral replication relies on host cells to provide nutrients and energy. Vaccinia virus (VACV; the prototype poxvirus) prefers glutamine to glucose for efficient replication to the extent that VACV replication is hindered in glutamine-free medium. Remarkably, our data show that VACV replication can be fully rescued from glutamine depletion by asparagine supplementation. By global metabolic profiling, as well as genetic and chemical manipulation of the asparagine supply, we provide evidence demonstrating that the production of asparagine, which exclusively requires glutamine for biosynthesis, accounts for VACV's preference of glutamine to glucose rather than glutamine's superiority over glucose in feeding the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Furthermore, we show that sufficient asparagine supply is required for efficient VACV protein synthesis. Our study highlights that the asparagine supply, the regulation of which has been evolutionarily tailored in mammalian cells, presents a critical barrier to VACV replication due to a high asparagine content of viral proteins and a rapid demand of viral protein synthesis. The identification of asparagine availability as a critical limiting factor for efficient VACV replication suggests a new direction of antiviral strategy development.IMPORTANCE Viruses rely on their infected host cells to provide nutrients and energy for replication. Vaccinia virus, the prototypic member of the poxviruses, which comprise many significant human and animal pathogens, prefers glutamine to glucose for efficient replication. Here, we show that the preference is not because glutamine is superior to glucose as the carbon source to fuel the tricarboxylic acid cycle for vaccinia virus replication. Rather interestingly, the preference is because the asparagine supply for efficient viral protein synthesis becomes limited in the absence of glutamine, which is necessary for asparagine biosynthesis. We provide further genetic and chemical evidence to demonstrate that asparagine availability plays a critical role in efficient vaccinia virus replication. This discovery identifies a weakness of vaccinia virus and suggests a possible direction to intervene in poxvirus infection.

published proceedings

  • J Virol

altmetric score

  • 16.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Pant, A., Cao, S., & Yang, Z.

citation count

  • 25

complete list of authors

  • Pant, Anil||Cao, Shuai||Yang, Zhilong

editor list (cited editors)

  • Shisler, J. L.

publication date

  • July 2019