NYMC Faculty Publications

Metastable Biomolecular Condensates of Interferon-Inducible Antiviral Mx-Family GTPases: A Paradigm Shift in the Last Three Years

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Journal of Biosciences

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Review Article

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Cell Biology and Anatomy


Membraneless organelles (MLOs) in the cytoplasm and nucleus in the form of phase-separated biomolecular condensates are increasingly viewed as critical in regulating diverse cellular functions. We summarize a paradigm shift over the last 3 years in the field of interferon (IFN)-inducible antiviral Mx-family GTPases. Expression of the 'myxovirus resistance proteins' MxA in human cells and its ortholog Mx1 in murine cells is increased 50- to 100-fold by Type I (IFN-α and -β) and III IFNs (IFN-λ). Human MxA forms cytoplasmic structures, while murine Mx1 forms nuclear bodies. Since 2002, it has been widely thought that human (Hu) MxA is associated with the membraneous smooth endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In a paradigm shift, our recent data showed that HuMxA formed membraneless phase-separated biomolecular condensates in the cytoplasm. Some of the HuMxA condensates adhered to intermediate filaments generating a reticular pattern. Murine (Mu) Mx1, which was predominantly nuclear, was also confirmed to be in phase-separated nuclear biomolecular condensates. A subset of Huh7 cells showed association of GFP-MuMx1 with intermediate filaments in the cytoplasm. While cells with cytoplasmic GFP-HuMxA condensates and cytoplasmic GFP-MuMx1 filaments showed an antiviral phenotype towards vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), those with only nuclear GFP-MuMx1 bodies did not. The new data bring forward the paradigm that both human MxA and murine Mx1 give rise to phase-separated biomolecular condensates, albeit in different subcellular compartments, and that differences in the subcellular localization of condensates of different Mx proteins determines the spectrum of their antiviral activity.