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A novel transcription and replication-competent virus-like particles system modelling the Nipah virus life cycle.

Abstract Nipah virus (NiV), a highly pathogenic Henipavirus in humans, has been responsible for annual outbreaks in recent years. Experiments revolving live NiV are highly restricted to biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratories, which impedes NiV research. In this study, we developed a transcription and replication-competent NiV-like particles (trVLP-NiV) lacking N, P, and L genes. This trVLP-NiV exhibited the ability to infect and continuously passage in cells ectopically expressing N, P, and L proteins while maintaining stable genetic characteristics. Moreover, the trVLP-NiV displayed a favourable safety profile in hamsters. Using the system, we found the NiV nucleoprotein residues interacting with viral RNA backbone affected viral replication in opposite patterns. This engineered system was sensitive to well-established antiviral drugs, innate host antiviral factors, and neutralising antibodies. We then established a high-throughput screening platform utilizing the trVLP-NiV, leading to the identification of tunicamycin as a potential anti-NiV compound. Evidence showed that tunicamycin inhibited NiV replication by decreasing the infectivity of progeny virions. In conclusion, this trVLP-NiV system provided a convenient and versatile molecular tool for investigating NiV molecular biology and conducting antiviral drug screening under BSL-2 conditions. Its application will contribute to the development of medical countermeasures against NiV infections.

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