Antiviral innate immune responses can be triggered by accumulation of intracellular nucleic acids resulting from virus infections. Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) can be detected by the cytoplasmic RNA helicase proteins RIG-I and MDA5, two proteins that share sequence similarities within a caspase recruitment domain (CARD) and a DExD/H box RNA helicase domain. These proteins are considered dsRNA sensors and are thought to transmit the signal to the mitochondrial adapter, IPS-1 (also known as MAVS, VISA, or CARDIF) via CARD interactions. IPS-1 coordinates the activity of protein kinases that activate transcription factors needed to induce beta interferon (IFN-β) gene transcription. Another helicase protein, LGP2, lacks the CARD region and does not activate IFN-β gene expression. LGP2 mRNA is induced by interferon, dsRNA treatments, or Sendai virus infection and acts as a feedback inhibitor for antiviral signaling. Results indicate that LGP2 can inhibit antiviral signaling independently of dsRNA or virus infection intermediates by engaging in a protein complex with IPS-1. Experiments suggest that LGP2 can compete with the kinase IKKi (also known as IKKɛ) for a common interaction site on IPS-1. These results provide the first demonstration of protein interaction as an element of negative-feedback regulation of intracellular antiviral signaling by LGP2.
The DExD/H box RNA helicases retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I) and melanoma differentiation associated gene-5 (mda-5) sense viral RNA in the cytoplasm of infected cells and activate signal transduction pathways that trigger the production of type I interferons (IFNs). Laboratory of genetics and physiology 2 (LGP2) is thought to influence IFN production by regulating the activity of RIG-I and mda-5, although its mechanism of action is not known and its function is controversial. Here we show that expression of LGP2 potentiates IFN induction by polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid [poly(I:C)], commonly used as a synthetic mimic of viral dsRNA, and that this is particularly significant at limited levels of the inducer. The observed enhancement is mediated through co-operation with mda-5, which depends upon LGP2 for maximal activation in response to poly(I:C). This co-operation is dependent upon dsRNA binding by LGP2, and the presence of helicase domain IV, both of which are required for LGP2 to interact with mda-5. In contrast, although RIG-I can also be activated by poly(I:C), LGP2 does not have the ability to enhance IFN induction by RIG-I, and instead acts as an inhibitor of RIG-I-dependent poly(I:C) signaling. Thus the level of LGP2 expression is a critical factor in determining the cellular sensitivity to induction by dsRNA, and this may be important for rapid activation of the IFN response at early times post-infection when the levels of inducer are low.
Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) is a by-product of viral RNA polymerase activity, and its recognition is one mechanism by which the innate immune system is activated. Cellular responses to dsRNA include induction of alpha/beta interferon (IFN) synthesis and activation of the enzyme PKR, which exerts its antiviral effect by phosphorylating the eukaryotic initiation factor eIF-2 alpha, thereby inhibiting translation. We have recently identified the nonstructural protein NSs of Bunyamwera virus (BUNV), the prototype of the family Bunyaviridae, as a virulence factor that blocks the induction of IFN by dsRNA. Here, we investigated the potential of NSs to inhibit PKR. We show that wild-type (wt) BUNV that expresses NSs triggered PKR-dependent phosphorylation of eIF-2 alpha to levels similar to those of a recombinant virus that does not express NSs (BUNdelNSs virus). Furthermore, the sensitivity of viruses in cell culture to IFN was independent of PKR and was not determined by NSs. PKR knockout mice, however, succumbed to infection approximately 1 day earlier than wt mice or mice deficient in expression of RNase L, another dsRNA-activated antiviral enzyme. Our data indicate that (i) bunyaviruses activate PKR, but are only marginally sensitive to its antiviral effect, and (ii) NSs is different from other IFN antagonists, since it inhibits dsRNA-dependent IFN induction but has no effect on the dsRNA-activated PKR and RNase L systems.
Type I interferons (IFN) are important for antiviral responses. Melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 (MDA-5) and retinoic acid-induced gene I (RIG-I) proteins detect cytosolic double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) or 5′-triphosphate (5′-ppp) RNA and mediate IFN production. Cytosolic 5′-ppp RNA and dsRNA are generated during viral RNA replication and transcription by viral RNA replicases [RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRp)]. Here, we show that the Semliki Forest virus (SFV) RNA replicase can induce IFN-β independently of viral RNA replication and transcription. The SFV replicase converts host cell RNA into 5′-ppp dsRNA and induces IFN-β through the RIG-I and MDA-5 pathways. Inactivation of the SFV replicase RdRp activity prevents IFN-β induction. These IFN-inducing modified host cell RNAs are abundantly produced during both wild-type SFV and its non-pathogenic mutant infection. Furthermore, in contrast to the wild-type SFV replicase a non-pathogenic mutant replicase triggers increased IFN-β production, which leads to a shutdown of virus replication. These results suggest that host cells can restrict RNA virus replication by detecting the products of unspecific viral replicase RdRp activity.
Type I interferons (IFN) are critical for mounting effective antiviral responses by the host cells. For RNA viruses, it is believed that IFN is triggered exclusively by viral double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) or RNA containing a 5′-triphosphate (5′-ppp) that is produced during viral genome replication or transcription driven by viral replicases. Here, we provide strong evidence suggesting that the viral replicase also generates 5′-ppp dsRNA using cellular RNA templates, which trigger IFN. This finding indicates that viral replicase is capable of activating the host innate immune response, deviating from the paradigm that viral nucleic acid replication or transcription must be initiated in the host cell to trigger IFN production. Using Semliki Forest virus (SFV) as a model, we show that the magnitude of innate immune response activation by the viral replicase plays a decisive role in establishing viral infection. We demonstrate that in contrast to the wild-type SFV replicase, a non-pathogenic mutant replicase triggers increased IFN production, which leads to a shutdown of virus replication. Consequently, excessive IFN induction by the viral replicase can be dangerous for an RNA virus. Thus, we delineate a novel mechanism by which an RNA virus triggers the host cell immune response leading to RNA virus replication shutdown.
The rapid induction of type I interferon (IFN) is essential for establishing innate antiviral responses. During infection, cytoplasmic viral RNA is sensed by two DExD/H box RNA helicases, RIG-I and MDA5, ultimately driving IFN production. Here, we demonstrate that purified genomic RNA from HIV-1 induces a RIG-I-dependent type I IFN response. Both the dimeric and monomeric forms of HIV-1 were sensed by RIG-I, but not MDA5, with monomeric RNA, usually found in defective HIV-1 particles, acting as a better inducer of IFN than dimeric RNA. However, despite the presence of HIV-1 RNA in the de novo infection of monocyte-derived macrophages, HIV-1 replication did not lead to a substantial induction of IFN signaling. We demonstrate the existence of an evasion mechanism based on the inhibition of the RIG-I sensor through the action of the HIV-1 protease (PR). Indeed, the ectopic expression of PR resulted in the inhibition of IFN regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3) phosphorylation and decreased expression of IFN and interferon-stimulated genes. A downregulation of cytoplasmic RIG-I levels occurred in cells undergoing a single-cycle infection with wild-type provirus BH10 but not in cells transfected with a protease-deficient provirus, BH10-PR−. Cellular fractionation and confocal microscopy studies revealed that RIG-I translocated from the cytosol to an insoluble fraction during the de novo HIV-1 infection of monocyte-derived macrophages, in the presence of PR. The loss of cytoplasmic RIG-I was prevented by the lysosomal inhibitor E64, suggesting that PR targets RIG-I to the lysosomes. This study reveals a novel PR-dependent mechanism employed by HIV-1 to counteract the early IFN response to viral RNA in infected cells.
The interferon (IFN)-induced, dsRNA-dependent serine/threonine protein kinase, PKR, plays a key regulatory role in the IFN-mediated anti-viral response by blocking translation in the infected cell by phosphorylating the alpha subunit of elongation factor 2 (eIF2). The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) evades the anti-viral IFN response through the binding of one of its major transcriptional regulatory proteins, Tat, to PKR. HIV-1 Tat acts as a substrate homologue for the enzyme, competing with eIF2α, and inhibiting the translational block. It has been shown that during the interaction with PKR, Tat becomes phosphorylated at three residues: serine 62, threonine 64 and serine 68. We have investigated the effect of this phosphorylation on the function of Tat in viral transcription. HIV-1 Tat activates transcription elongation by first binding to TAR RNA, a stem-loop structure found at the 5' end of all viral transcripts. Our results showed faster, greater and stronger binding of Tat to TAR RNA after phosphorylation by PKR.
We have investigated the effect of phosphorylation on Tat-mediated transactivation. Our results showed faster, greater and stronger binding of Tat to TAR RNA after phosphorylation by PKR. In vitro phosphorylation experiments with a series of bacterial expression constructs carrying the wild-type tat gene or mutants of the gene with alanine substitutions at one, two, or all three of the serine/threonine PKR phosphorylation sites, showed that these were subject to different levels of phosphorylation by PKR and displayed distinct kinetic behaviour. These results also suggested a cooperative role for the phosphorylation of S68 in conjunction with S62 and T64. We examined the effect of phosphorylation on Tat-mediated transactivation of the HIV-1 LTR in vivo with a series of analogous mammalian expression constructs. Co-transfection experiments showed a gradual reduction in transactivation as the number of mutated phosphorylation sites increased, and a 4-fold decrease in LTR transactivation with the Tat triple mutant that could not be phosphorylated by PKR. Furthermore, the transfection data also suggested that the presence of S68 is necessary for optimal Tat-mediated transactivation.
These results support the hypothesis that phosphorylation of Tat may be important for its function in HIV-1 LTR transactivation.
Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) plays a centrally important role in antiviral innate immunity, both for the production of interferon (IFN) and also in the actions of IFN. Among the IFN inducible gene products are the protein kinase regulated by RNA (PKR) and the adenosine deaminase acting on RNA (ADAR1). PKR is an established key player in the antiviral actions of IFN, through dsRNA-dependent activation and subsequent phosphorylation of protein synthesis initiation factor eIF2α thereby altering the translational pattern in cells. In addition, PKR plays an important role as a positive effector that amplifies the production of IFN. ADAR1 catalyzes the deamination of adenosine in RNA with double-stranded character, leading to the destablization of RNA duplex structures and genetic recoding. By contrast to the antiviral and proapoptotic functions associated with PKR, the actions of ADAR1 in some instances are proviral and cell protective as ADAR1 functions as a suppressor of dsRNA-mediated antiviral responses including activation of PKR and interferon regulatory factor 3.
ADAR1, an interferon (IFN)-inducible double-stranded (ds) RNA-specific adenosine deaminase, downregulates host innate responses, including activation of the dsRNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) and induction of IFN-β mRNA. Conversely, PKR amplifies IFN-β induction by measles virus (MV) and inhibits virus protein synthesis. Formation of stress granules (SGs), cytoplasmic aggregates of stalled translation complexes and RNA-binding proteins, is a host response to virus infection mediated by translation initiation factor eIF2α phosphorylation. We examined the roles of PKR and ADAR1 in SG formation using HeLa cells stably deficient in either PKR (PKRkd) or ADAR1 (ADAR1kd) compared to control (CONkd) cells. Infection with either wild-type (WT) MV or an isogenic mutant lacking C protein expression (Cko) comparably induced formation of SG in ADAR1kd cells, whereas only the Cko mutant was an efficient inducer in control cells. Both ADAR1 and PKR colocalized with SG following infection. MV-induced; SG formation was PKR dependent but impaired by ADAR1. Complementation of ADAR1kd cells by expression of either p150 WT isoform or the p150 Zα (Y177A) Z-DNA-binding mutant of ADAR1 restored suppression of host responses, including SG formation and PKR activation. In contrast, neither the p110 WT isoform nor the p150 catalytic (H910A, E912A) mutant of ADAR1 complemented the ADAR1kd phenotype. These results further establish ADAR1 as a suppressor of host innate responses, including activation of PKR and the subsequent SG response.
Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) for double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) are components of innate immunity that recognize the presence of viral infection and initiate efficient defense mechanisms. In addition to previously well-characterized signaling pathways that are mediated by PKR and TLR3, new intracellular dsRNA sensors, that are members of CARD and DExD/H box helicase family, have been identified. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in the signaling pathways mediated by these new dsRNA sensors have not been extensively characterized.
Here, we studied an intracellular dsRNA pathway in the human fibrosarcoma cell line HT1080, which is distinct from the TLR3-mediated extracellular dsRNA pathway. Particularly, the NF-kB subunits RELA and RELB were differentially utilized by these two dsRNA signaling pathways. In TLR3-mediated dsRNA signaling, siRNA knock-down studies suggested a limited role for RELA on regulation of interferon beta and other cytokines whereas RELB appeared to have a negative regulatory role. By contrast, intracellular dsRNA signaling was dependent on RELA, but not RELB.
Our study suggests that extracellular and intracellular dsRNA signaling pathways may utilize different NF-kB members, and particularly the differential utilization of RELB may be a key mechanism for powerful inductions of NF-kB regulated genes in the intracellular dsRNA signaling pathway.
The vaccinia virus E3L gene codes for double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) binding proteins which can prevent activation of the dsRNA-dependent, interferon-induced protein kinase PKR. Activated PKR has been shown to induce apoptosis in HeLa cells. HeLa cells infected with vaccinia virus with the E3L gene deleted have also been shown to undergo apoptosis, whereas HeLa cells infected with wild-type vaccinia virus do not. In this report, using virus recombinants expressing mutant E3L products or alternative dsRNA binding proteins, we show that suppression of induction of apoptosis correlates with functional binding of proteins to dsRNA. Infection of HeLa cells with ts23, which leads to synthesis of increased dsRNA at restrictive temperature, induced apoptosis at restrictive but not permissive temperatures. Treatment of cells with cytosine arabinoside, which blocks the late buildup of dsRNA in vaccinia virus-infected cells, prevented induction of apoptosis by vaccinia virus with E3L deleted. Cells transfected with dsRNA in the absence of virus infection also underwent apoptosis. These results suggest that dsRNA is a trigger that can initiate a suicide response in virus-infected and perhaps uninfected cells.
The double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-dependent protein kinase (PKR) inhibits protein synthesis by phosphorylating eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α). In fish species, in addition to PKR, there exists a PKR-like protein kinase containing Z-DNA binding domains (PKZ). However, the antiviral role of fish PKZ and the functional relationship between fish PKZ and PKR remain unknown. Here we confirmed the coexpression of fish PKZ and PKR proteins in Carassius auratus blastula embryonic (CAB) cells and identified them as two typical interferon (IFN)-inducible eIF2α kinases, both of which displayed an ability to inhibit virus replication. Strikingly, fish IFN or all kinds of IFN stimuli activated PKZ and PKR to phosphorylated eIF2α. Overexpression of both fish kinases together conferred much more significant inhibition of virus replication than overexpression of either protein, whereas morpholino knockdown of both made fish cells more vulnerable to virus infection than knockdown of either. The antiviral ability of fish PKZ was weaker than fish PKR, which correlated with its lower ability to phosphorylate eIF2α than PKR. Moreover, the independent association of fish PKZ or PKR reveals that each of them formed homodimers and that fish PKZ phosphorylated eIF2α independently on fish PKR and vice versa. These results suggest that fish PKZ and PKR play a nonredundant but cooperative role in IFN antiviral response.
The vaccinia virus (VV) E3L gene, which encodes a potent inhibitor of the interferon (IFN)-induced, double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-dependent protein kinase, PKR, is thought to be involved in the IFN-resistant phenotype of VV. The E3L gene products, p25 and p20, act as inhibitors of PKR, presumably by binding and sequestering activator dsRNA from the kinase. In this study we demonstrate that VV with the E3L gene specifically deleted (vP1080) was sensitive to the antiviral effects of IFN and debilitated in its ability to rescue vesicular stomatitis virus from the antiviral effects of IFN. Infection of L929 cells with E3L-minus virus led to rRNA degradation typical of activation of the 2'-5'-oligoadenylate synthetase/RNase L system, and extracts of infected cells lacked the PKR-inhibitory activity characteristic of wild-type VV. The reovirus S4 gene, which encodes a dsRNA-binding protein (sigma 3) that can also inhibit PKR activation by binding and sequestering activator dsRNA, was inserted into vP1080. The resultant virus (vP1112) was partially resistant to the antiviral effects of IFN in comparison with vP1080. Further studies demonstrated that transient expression of the reovirus sigma 3 protein rescued E3L-minus VV replication in HeLa cells. In these studies, rescue by sigma 3 mutants correlated with their ability to bind dsRNA. Finally, vP112 was also able to rescue the replication of the IFN-sensitive virus vesicular stomatitis virus in a manner similar to that of wild-type VV. Together, these results suggest that the reovirus S4 gene can replace the VV E3L gene with respect to interference with the IFN-induced antiviral activity.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs), a family of mammalian receptors, are able to recognize nucleic acids. TLR3 recognizes double-stranded (ds)RNA, a product of the replication of certain viruses. Polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid, referred to as poly(I:C), an analog of viral dsRNA, interacts with TLR3 thereby eliciting immunoinflammatory responses characteristic of viral infection or down-regulating the expression of chemokine receptor CXCR4. It is known that dsRNA also directly activates interferon (IFN)-induced enzymes, such as the RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR). In the present study, the mRNA expression of TLR3, CXCR4, IFNγ and PKR was investigated in a culture of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) stimulated with poly(I:C) and endogenous RNA from human PBMCs. No cytotoxic effect on the cells or on the proliferation of CD3+, CD4+ and CD8+ cells was observed. TLR3 expression in the PBMCs in the presence of poly(I:C) was up-regulated 9.5-fold, and TLR3 expression in the PBMCs treated with endogenous RNA was down-regulated 1.8-fold (p=0.002). The same trend was observed for IFNγ where in the presence of poly(I:C) an 8.7-fold increase was noted and in the presence of endogenous RNA a 3.1-fold decrease was observed. In the culture activated with poly(I:C), mRNA expression of CXCR4 increased 8.0-fold and expression of PKR increased 33.0-fold. Expression of these genes decreased in the culture treated with endogenous RNA when compared to the culture without stimulus. Thus, high expression of mRNA for TLR3, IFNγ, CXCR4 and PKR was observed in the presence of poly(I:C) and low expression was observed in the cells cultured with endogenous RNA. In conclusion, TLR3 may play major physiological roles that are not in the context of viral infection. It is possible that RNA released from cells could contain enough double-stranded structures to regulate cell activation. The involvement of endogenous RNA in endogenous gene expression and its implications in the regulation thereof, are still being studied, and will have significant implications in the future.
Toll-like receptor 3; CXCR4; interferon-γ; PKR; RNA
UAP56, an ATP dependent RNA helicase that also has ATPase activity, is a DExD/H box protein that is phylogenetically grouped with the eukaryotic initiation factor eIF4A, the prototypical member of the DExD/H box family of helicases. UAP56, also known as BAT1, is an essential RNA splicing factor required for spliceosome assembly and mRNA export but its role in protein synthesis is not known. Here we demonstrate that UAP56 regulates protein synthesis and growth in cardiomyocytes. We found that wild-type (WT) UAP56 increased serum induced protein synthesis in HeLa cells. UAP56 mutants lacking ATPase and/or helicase activity inhibited protein synthesis compared with WT UAP56, suggesting that the ATPase and RNA helicase activity of UAP56 is important for protein synthesis. UAP56 siRNA inhibited phenylephrine (PE) induced protein synthesis in cardiomyocytes and inhibited PE induced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. Our data demonstrate that UAP56 is an important regulator of protein synthesis and plays an important role in the regulation of cardiomyocyte growth.
cardiac hypertrophy; protein synthesis; growth; UAP56; helicase
Cells carry a variety of molecules, referred to as pathogen recognition receptors (PRRs), which are able to sense invading pathogens. Interaction of PRRs with viral compounds instigates a signaling pathway(s), resulting in the activation of genes, including those for type I interferon (IFN), which are critical for an effective antiviral response. Here we demonstrate that the double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-dependent protein kinase PKR, which has been shown to function as a PRR in cells treated with the dsRNA mimetic poly(I:C), serves as a PRR in West Nile virus (WNV)-infected cells. Evidence for PKR's role as a PRR was obtained from both human and murine cells. Using mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), we demonstrated that PKR gene knockout, posttranscriptional gene silencing of PKR mRNA using small interfering RNA (siRNA), and chemical inhibition of PKR function all interfered with IFN synthesis following WNV infection. In three different human cell lines, siRNA knockdown and chemical inhibition of PKR blocked WNV-induced IFN synthesis. Using the same approaches, we demonstrated that PKR was not necessary for Sendai virus-induced IFN synthesis, suggesting that PKR is particularly important for recognition of WNV infection. Taken together, our data suggest that PKR could serve as a PRR for recognition of WNV infection.
The cytoplasmic viral RNA sensors RIG-I and MDA5 are important for the production of type I interferon and other inflammatory cytokines. DDX60 is an uncharacterized DEXD/H box RNA helicase similar to Saccharomyces cerevisiae Ski2, a cofactor of RNA exosome, which is a protein complex required for the integrity of cytoplasmic RNA. Expression of DDX60 increases after viral infection, and the protein localizes at the cytoplasmic region. After viral infection, the DDX60 protein binds to endogenous RIG-I protein. The protein also binds to MDA5 and LGP2 but not to the downstream factors IPS-1 and IκB kinase ε (IKK-ε). Knockdown analysis shows that DDX60 is required for RIG-I- or MDA5-dependent type I interferon and interferon-inducible gene expression in response to viral infection. However, DDX60 is dispensable for TLR3-mediated signaling. Purified DDX60 helicase domains possess the activity to bind to viral RNA and DNA. Expression of DDX60 promotes the binding of RIG-I to double-stranded RNA. Taken together, our analyses indicate that DDX60 is a novel antiviral helicase promoting RIG-I-like receptor-mediated signaling.
The human double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-dependent protein kinase PKR inhibits protein synthesis by phosphorylating translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α). Vaccinia virus E3L encodes a dsRNA binding protein that inhibits PKR in virus-infected cells, presumably by sequestering dsRNA activators. Expression of PKR in Saccharomyces cerevisiae inhibits protein synthesis by phosphorylation of eIF2α, dependent on its two dsRNA binding motifs (DRBMs). We found that expression of E3 in yeast overcomes the lethal effect of PKR in a manner requiring key residues (Lys-167 and Arg-168) needed for dsRNA binding by E3 in vitro. Unexpectedly, the N-terminal half of E3, and residue Trp-66 in particular, also is required for anti-PKR function. Because the E3 N-terminal region does not contribute to dsRNA binding in vitro, it appears that sequestering dsRNA is not the sole function of E3 needed for inhibition of PKR. This conclusion was supported by the fact that E3 activity was antagonized, not augmented, by overexpressing the catalytically defective PKR-K296R protein containing functional DRBMs. Coimmunoprecipitation experiments showed that a majority of PKR in yeast extracts was in a complex with E3, whose formation was completely dependent on the dsRNA binding activity of E3 and enhanced by the N-terminal half of E3. In yeast two-hybrid assays and in vitro protein binding experiments, segments of E3 and PKR containing their respective DRBMs interacted in a manner requiring E3 residues Lys-167 and Arg-168. We also detected interactions between PKR and the N-terminal half of E3 in the yeast two-hybrid and λ repressor dimerization assays. In the latter case, the N-terminal half of E3 interacted with the kinase domain of PKR, dependent on E3 residue Trp-66. We propose that effective inhibition of PKR in yeast requires formation of an E3-PKR-dsRNA complex, in which the N-terminal half of E3 physically interacts with the protein kinase domain of PKR.
The double-stranded RNA-activated protein kinase R (PKR) is a key regulator of the innate immune response. Activation of PKR during viral infection culminates in phosphorylation of the α subunit of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2α) to inhibit protein translation. A broad range of regulatory functions has also been attributed to PKR. However, as few additional PKR substrates have been identified, the mechanisms remain unclear. Here, PKR is shown to interact with an essential RNA helicase, RHA. Moreover, RHA is identified as a substrate for PKR, with phosphorylation perturbing the association of the helicase with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). Through this mechanism, PKR can modulate transcription, as revealed by its ability to prevent the capacity of RHA to catalyze transactivating response (TAR)–mediated type 1 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) gene regulation. Consequently, HIV-1 virions packaged in cells also expressing the decoy RHA peptides subsequently had enhanced infectivity. The data demonstrate interplay between key components of dsRNA metabolism, both connecting RHA to an important component of innate immunity and delineating an unanticipated role for PKR in RNA metabolism.
Our manuscript explores the immune response to viral infection by investigating events triggered by the protein kinase PKR. This sentinel kinase is constitutively expressed in all cells as an inactive protein that is subsequently activated by viral RNA produced during an infection. The active kinase perturbs viral replication by phosphorylating protein substrates in the cell. In this manuscript we identify a novel substrate for PKR, an essential helicase, RHA. Viruses usurp this helicase to replicate their own genome. We demonstrate that phosphorylation of RHA by PKR perturbs the ability of the helicase to bind viral RNA. Correspondingly, PKR prevents the capacity of RHA to enhance expression of genetic elements encoded by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Juxtaposed to this, HIV virions packaged within cells that also express protein fragments of RHA, demonstrated to interact with PKR as decoy substrates, have enhanced infectivity. These fragments of RHA occur within a protein domain previously established to bind RNA but increasingly recognized to mediate protein–protein interactions. This supports an emerging role for these protein domains to coordinate the cell's response to pathogen-associated RNA. The findings identify a new cell-signaling pathway important in the response to viral infection.
PKR (protein kinase R) is a central component of the interferon antiviral defense pathway. Upon binding dsRNA, PKR undergoes autophosphorylation reactions that activate the kinase. PKR then phosphorylates eIF2α, thus inhibiting protein synthesis in virally-infected cells. Here, we define the mechanism of PKR activation using a series dsRNAs of increasing length. A minimal dsRNA of 30 bp is required to bind two PKR monomers and 30 bp is the smallest dsRNA that elicits autophosphorylation activity. Thus, the ability of dsRNAs to function as PKR activators is correlated with binding of two or more PKR monomers. Sedimentation velocity data fit a model where PKR monomers sequentially attach to a single dsRNA. These results support an activation mechanism where the role of the dsRNA is to bring two or more PKR monomers in close proximity to enhance dimerization via the kinase domain. This model explains the inhibition observed at high dsRNA concentrations and the strong dependence of maximum activation on dsRNA binding affinity. Binding affinities increase dramatically upon reducing the salt concentration from 200 to 75 mM NaCl and we observe that a second PKR can bind to the 20 bp dsRNA. Nonspecific assembly of PKR on dsRNA occurs stochastically without apparent cooperativity.
analytical ultracentrifugation; protein-nucleic acid interactions; protein kinase; innate immunity; autophosphorylation
Expression of alpha/beta interferon (IFN-α/β) in virus-infected vertebrate cells is a key event in the establishment of a sustained antiviral response, which is triggered by double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) produced during viral replication. These antiviral cytokines initiate the expression of cellular proteins with activities that limit the replication and spread of the invading viruses. Within this response, the dsRNA-dependent protein kinase R (PKR) that is expressed at constitutive levels and upregulated by IFN-α/β acts as an important antiviral effector that can block the cellular translational machinery. We previously demonstrated that efficient replication of influenza B virus depends on the viral dsRNA-binding NS1 protein that inhibits the transcriptional activation of IFN-α/β genes. Here we tested the postulate that the viral NS1 protein counteracts antiviral responses through sequestering intracellular dsRNA by analyzing a collection of recombinant influenza B viruses. As expected, viruses expressing dsRNA-binding-defective NS1 proteins were strongly attenuated for replication in IFN-competent hosts. Interestingly, these virus mutants failed to prevent activation of PKR but could effectively limit IFN induction. Conversely, a mutant virus expressing the N-terminal dsRNA-binding domain of NS1 prevented PKR activation, but not IFN induction, suggesting an important role for the NS1 C-terminal part in silencing the activation route of IFN-α/β genes. Thus, our findings indicate an unexpected mechanistic dichotomy of the influenza B virus NS1 protein in the suppression of antiviral responses, which involves at least one activity that is largely separable from dsRNA binding.
Among the many host genes induced by virus infection and interferon, the eIF2α protein kinase PKR and the 2′-5′ oligoadenylate synthetase (OAS) are both activated by double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) produced in virus-infected cells. Furthermore, each is a critical component that independently acts to inhibit virus replication and thereby contributes to the establishment of an antiviral state. As part of their tactics to foil host defense mechanisms, some viruses prevent the induction of interferon-responsive genes at the level of transcription. Other viruses, such as herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), can additionally replicate in interferon-treated cells and must also evade the actions of host defense proteins such as PKR and OAS that have been previously synthesized and merely await detection of an activating signal. Whereas HSV-1 gene products γ134.5 and Us11 are required for viral replication in interferon-treated cells and both act in a temporally coordinated manner during infection to counteract PKR, HSV-1 functions that target OAS have not been described. Here, we demonstrate that HSV-1 infection inhibits 2′-5′ oligoadenylate synthesis in interferon-stimulated primary human cells. The OAS-inhibiting activity is generated late in the virus' productive life cycle and requires the Us11 gene product. Moreover, we establish that the Us11 protein is sufficient to block OAS activation in extracts from uninfected, interferon-treated cells. Inhibition of OAS specifically requires the Us11 dsRNA-binding domain, suggesting a mechanism that, in part, relies on sequestering available dsRNA produced during infection. Thus, in addition to PKR and its protein activator, PACT, the HSV-1 Us11 gene product is able to counteract the activity of OAS, a third cellular protein critical for host defense.
Mammalian cells have the ability to recognize virus infection and mount a powerful antiviral response. Pattern recognition receptor proteins detect molecular signatures of virus infection and activate antiviral signaling cascades. The RIG-I-like receptors are cytoplasmic DExD/H box proteins that can specifically recognize virus-derived RNA species as a molecular feature discriminating the pathogen from the host. The RIG-I-like receptor family is composed of three homologous proteins, RIG-I, MDA5, and LGP2. All of these proteins can bind double-stranded RNA species with varying affinities via their conserved DExD/H box RNA helicase domains and C-terminal regulatory domains. The recognition of foreign RNA by the RLRs activates enzymatic functions and initiates signal transduction pathways resulting in the production of antiviral cytokines and the establishment of a broadly effective cellular antiviral state that protects neighboring cells from infection and triggers innate and adaptive immune systems. The propagation of this signal via the interferon antiviral system has been studied extensively, while the precise roles for enzymatic activities of the RNA helicase domain in antiviral responses are only beginning to be elucidated. Here, current models for RLR ligand recognition and signaling are reviewed.
The vaccinia virus (VV) E3L gene is responsible for providing interferon (IFN) resistance and a broad host range to VV in cell culture. The E3L gene product contains two distinct domains. A conserved carboxy-terminal domain, which is required for the IFN resistance and broad host range of the virus, has been shown to bind double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and inhibit the antiviral dsRNA-dependent protein kinase, PKR. The amino-terminal domain, while conserved among orthopoxviruses, is dispensable in cell culture. To study the role of E3L in whole-animal infections, WR strain VV recombinants either lacking E3L (VVΔE3L) or expressing an amino-terminal (VVE3LΔ83N) or carboxy-terminal (VVE3LΔ26C) truncation of E3L were constructed. Whereas wild-type VV had a 50% lethal dose of approximately 104 PFU after intranasal infection, and elicited severe weight loss and morbidity, VVΔE3L was apathogenic, leading to no death, weight loss, or morbidity. VVΔE3L was also apathogenic after intracranial injection. Although the amino-terminal domain of E3L is dispensable for infection of cells in culture, both the amino- and carboxy-terminal domains of E3L were required for full pathogenesis in intranasal infections. These results demonstrate that the entire E3L gene is required for pathogenesis in the mouse model.
Type I interferons (IFNs) are known to mediate viral control, and also promote survival and expansion of virus-specific CD8+ T cells. However, it is unclear whether signaling cascades involved in eliciting these diverse cellular effects are also distinct. One of the best-characterized anti-viral signaling mechanisms of Type I IFNs is mediated by the IFN-inducible dsRNA activated protein kinase, PKR. Here, we have investigated the role of PKR and Type I IFNs in regulating viral clearance and CD8+ T cell response during primary and secondary viral infections. Our studies demonstrate differential requirement for PKR, in viral control versus elicitation of CD8+ T cell responses during primary infection of mice with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). PKR-deficient mice mounted potent CD8+ T cell responses, but failed to effectively control LCMV. The compromised LCMV control in the absence of PKR was multifactorial, and linked to less effective CD8+ T cell-mediated viral suppression, enhanced viral replication in cells, and lower steady state expression levels of IFN-responsive genes. Moreover, we show that despite normal expansion of memory CD8+ T cells and differentiation into effectors during a secondary response, effective clearance of LCMV but not vaccinia virus required PKR activity in infected cells. In the absence of Type I IFN signaling, secondary effector CD8+ T cells were ineffective in controlling both LCMV and vaccinia virus replication in vivo. These findings provide insight into cellular pathways of Type I IFN actions, and highlight the under-appreciated importance of innate immune mechanisms of viral control during secondary infections, despite the accelerated responses of memory CD8+ T cells. Additionally, the results presented here have furthered our understanding of the immune correlates of anti-viral protective immunity, which have implications in the rational design of vaccines.
Type I interferons (IFNs) constitute the first line of defense against viral infections, promote antigen presentation by dendritic cells, and play a crucial role in directly stimulating anti-viral T cell responses. However, the mechanisms underlying the diverse cellular effects of Type I IFNs are not well defined. One of the best-characterized anti-viral signaling mechanisms induced by Type I IFNs is mediated by the IFN-inducible dsRNA activated protein kinase, PKR. We show that requirement for cellular PKR activity could be a distinguishing feature between Type I IFN actions that mediate viral control or stimulate CD8+ T cell expansion during an acute infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Typically, innate immune mechanisms including Type I IFNs are considered important for viral control during a primary infection. However, we find that presence of vaccine-induced CD8+ T cell memory and accelerated generation of secondary effectors are necessary but not sufficient to provide effective protective immunity to re-infection, without the aid of innate effectors PKR and Type I IFNs. These findings have improved our understanding of virus-immune system interactions and immune correlates of anti-viral protective immunity, which might have implications in the development of effective anti-viral vaccines and immunotherapies.
Virus infection elicits a robust innate antiviral response dominated by the production of type 1 IFN. In non-professional innate immune cells such as fibroblasts, type 1 IFN is rapidly produced following the recognition of viral dsRNA and the subsequent activation of the constitutively expressed transcription factor IFN regulatory factor 3 (IRF3). While origin, localization and length are factors in mediating dsRNA recognition and binding by cellular dsRNA binding proteins, the biological significance of differential dsRNA binding is unclear, since the subsequent signaling pathways converge on IRF3. Here, we show a dsRNA length dependent activation of IRFs, IFNs and IFN stimulated genes in mouse fibroblasts. The length dependence was exacerbated in fibroblasts deficient in the mitochondria-associated adaptor IPS-1 and IRF3, suggesting that antiviral gene induction mediated by short and long dsRNA molecules is predominantly IPS-1 and IRF3-dependent and –independent, respectively. Furthermore, we provide evidence of an innate antiviral response in fibroblasts in the absence of both IRF3 and type 1 IFN induction. Even with these key modulators missing, a 60% to 90% inhibition of virus replication was observed following 24-hour treatment with short or long dsRNA molecules, respectively. These data provide evidence of a novel antiviral pathway that is dependent on dsRNA length, but independent of the type 1 IFN system.