The human alpha defensin HD5 neutralizes JC polyomavirus infection by reducing endoplasmic reticulum traffic and stabilizing the viral capsid

Stephen R. Zins, Christian D S Nelson, Melissa S. Maginnis, Rahul Banerjee, Bethany A. O'Hara, Walter J. Atwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a fatal disease with limited treatment options, both clinically and in the research pipeline. Potential therapies would target and neutralize its etiologic agent, JC polyomavirus (JCPyV). The innate immune response to JCPyV infection has not been studied, and little is known about the initial host response to polyomavirus infection. This study examined the ability of a human alpha defensin, HD5, to neutralize JCPyV infection in human fetal glial cells. We show that HD5, by binding to the virion, blocks infection. The JCPyV-HD5 complexes bind to and enter host cells but are reduced in their ability to reach the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), where virions are normally uncoated. Furthermore, HD5 binding to the virion stabilizes the capsid and prevents genome release. Our results show that HD5 neutralizes JCPyV infection at an early postentry step in the viral life cycle by stabilizing the viral capsid and disrupting JCPyV trafficking. This study provides a naturally occurring platform for developing antivirals to treat PML and also expands on the known capabilities of human defensins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)948-960
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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