Chikungunya virus superinfection exclusion is mediated by a block in viral replication and does not rely on non-structural protein 2


Superinfection exclusion (SIE) is a process by which a virally infected cell is protected from subsequent infection by the same or a closely related virus. By preventing cell coinfection, SIE favors preservation of genome integrity of a viral strain and limits its recombination potential with other viral genomes, thereby impacting viral evolution. Although described in virtually all viral families, the precise step(s) impacted by SIE during the viral life cycle have not been systematically explored. Here, we describe for the first time SIE triggered by chikungunya virus (CHIKV), an alphavirus of public health importance. Using single-cell technologies, we demonstrate that CHIKV excludes subsequent infection with: CHIKV; Sindbis virus, a related alphavirus; and influenza A, an unrelated RNA virus. We further demonstrate that SIE does not depend on the action of type I interferon, nor does it rely on host cell transcription. Moreover, exclusion is not mediated by the action of a single CHIKV protein; in particular, we observed no role for non-structural protein 2 (nsP2), making CHIKV unique among characterized alphaviruses. By stepping through the viral life cycle, we show that CHIKV exclusion occurs at the level of replication, but does not directly influence virus binding, nor viral structural protein translation. In sum, we characterized co-infection during CHIKV replication, which likely influences the rate of viral diversification and evolution.