Engineered receptors for human cytomegalovirus that are orthogonal to normal human biology

Jihye Park, Kevin Sean Gill, Ali Asghar Aghajani, Jeremiah Dallas Heredia, Hannah Choi, Adam Oberstein, Erik Procko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A trimeric glycoprotein complex on the surface of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) binds to platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor α (PDGFRα) to mediate host cell recognition and fusion of the viral and cellular membranes. Soluble PDGFRα potently neutralizes HCMV in tissue culture, and its potential use as an antiviral therapeutic has the benefit that any escape mutants will likely be attenuated. However, PDGFRα binds multiple PDGF ligands in the human body as part of developmental programs in embryogenesis and continuing through adulthood. Any therapies with soluble receptor therefore come with serious efficacy and safety concerns, especially for the treatment of congenital HCMV. Soluble virus receptors that are orthogonal to human biology might resolve these concerns. This engineering problem is solved by deep mutational scanning on the D2-D3 domains of PDGFRα to identify variants that maintain interactions with the HCMV glycoprotein trimer in the presence of competing PDGF ligands. Competition by PDGFs is conformation-dependent, whereas HCMV trimer binding is independent of proper D2-D3 conformation, and many mutations at the receptor-PDGF interface are suitable for functionally separating trimer from PDGF interactions. Purified soluble PDGFRα carrying a targeted mutation succeeded in displaying wild type affinity for HCMV trimer with a simultaneous loss of PDGF binding, and neutralizes trimer-only and trimer/pentamer-expressing HCMV strains infecting fibroblasts or epithelial cells. Overall, this work makes important progress in the realization of soluble HCMV receptors for clinical application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1008647
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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