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1.  Disruption of TLR3 Signaling Due to Cleavage of TRIF by the Hepatitis A Virus Protease-Polymerase Processing Intermediate, 3CD 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002169.
Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) and cytosolic RIG-I-like helicases (RIG-I and MDA5) sense viral RNAs and activate innate immune signaling pathways that induce expression of interferon (IFN) through specific adaptor proteins, TIR domain-containing adaptor inducing interferon-β (TRIF), and mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS), respectively. Previously, we demonstrated that hepatitis A virus (HAV), a unique hepatotropic human picornavirus, disrupts RIG-I/MDA5 signaling by targeting MAVS for cleavage by 3ABC, a precursor of the sole HAV protease, 3Cpro, that is derived by auto-processing of the P3 (3ABCD) segment of the viral polyprotein. Here, we show that HAV also disrupts TLR3 signaling, inhibiting poly(I:C)-stimulated dimerization of IFN regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3), IRF-3 translocation to the nucleus, and IFN-β promoter activation, by targeting TRIF for degradation by a distinct 3ABCD processing intermediate, the 3CD protease-polymerase precursor. TRIF is proteolytically cleaved by 3CD, but not by the mature 3Cpro protease or the 3ABC precursor that degrades MAVS. 3CD-mediated degradation of TRIF depends on both the cysteine protease activity of 3Cpro and downstream 3Dpol sequence, but not 3Dpol polymerase activity. Cleavage occurs at two non-canonical 3Cpro recognition sequences in TRIF, and involves a hierarchical process in which primary cleavage at Gln-554 is a prerequisite for scission at Gln-190. The results of mutational studies indicate that 3Dpol sequence modulates the substrate specificity of the upstream 3Cpro protease when fused to it in cis in 3CD, allowing 3CD to target cleavage sites not normally recognized by 3Cpro. HAV thus disrupts both RIG-I/MDA5 and TLR3 signaling pathways through cleavage of essential adaptor proteins by two distinct protease precursors derived from the common 3ABCD polyprotein processing intermediate.
Author Summary
While viruses that target the liver often cause lengthy infections with considerable morbidity, there is limited understanding of how they evade host responses. We have studied hepatitis A virus (HAV), an important cause of acute hepatitis in humans. Although HAV infection typically results in hepatic inflammation, there is no disease in the liver during the first weeks of infection despite robust virus replication. This suggests that HAV either fails to stimulate or efficiently evades recognition by host innate immune sensors. Our prior work showed HAV disrupts RIG-I/MDA5 signaling by targeting MAVS, an essential adaptor protein, for degradation by 3ABC, a precursor of the only HAV protease, 3Cpro. Here, we show here that a distinct viral processing intermediate, the 3CD protease-polymerase, disrupts TLR3 signaling by degrading its adaptor protein, TRIF. HAV has evolved a novel strategy to target two different host adaptor proteins with a single protease, using its 3Dpol RNA polymerase to modify the substrate specificity of its 3Cpro protease when fused to it in the 3CD precursor, thus allowing it to target non-canonical 3Cpro recognition sequences in TRIF. This remarkable example of viral adaptation allows the virus to target two different host adaptor proteins with a single viral protease.
PMCID: PMC3169542  PMID: 21931545
2.  TRIM11 Negatively Regulates IFNβ Production and Antiviral Activity by Targeting TBK1 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63255.
The innate immune response is a host defense mechanism against infection by viruses and bacteria. Type I interferons (IFNα/β) play a crucial role in innate immunity. If not tightly regulated under normal conditions and during immune responses, IFN production can become aberrant, leading to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. In this study, we identified TRIM11 (tripartite motif containing 11) as a novel negative regulator of IFNβ production. Ectopic expression of TRIM11 decreased IFNβ promoter activity induced by poly (I:C) stimulation or overexpression of RIG-I (retinoic acid-inducible gene-I) signaling cascade components RIG-IN (constitutively active form of RIG-I), MAVS (mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein), or TBK1 (TANK-binding kinase-1). Conversely, TRIM11 knockdown enhanced IFNβ promoter activity induced by these stimuli. Moreover, TRIM11 overexpression inhibited the phosphorylation and dimerization of IRF3 and expression of IFNβ mRNA. By contrast, TRIM11 knockdown increased the IRF3 phosphorylation and IFNβ mRNA expression. We also found that TRIM11 and TBK1, a key kinase that phosphorylates IRF3 in the RIG-I pathway, interacted with each other through CC and CC2 domain, respectively. This interaction was enhanced in the presence of the TBK1 adaptor proteins, NAP1 (NF-κB activating kinase-associated protein-1), SINTBAD (similar to NAP1 TBK1 adaptor) or TANK (TRAF family member-associated NF-κB activator). Consistent with its inhibitory role in RIG-I-mediated IFNβ signaling, TRIM11 overexpression enhanced viral infectivity, whereas TRIM11 knockdown produced the opposite effect. Collectively, our results suggest that TRIM11 inhibits RIG-I-mediated IFNβ production by targeting the TBK1 signaling complex.
PMCID: PMC3652858  PMID: 23675467
3.  The interferon inducing pathways and the hepatitis C virus 
The innate immune response is triggered by a variety of pathogens, including viruses, and requires rapid induction of type I interferons (IFN), such as IFNβ and IFNα. IFN induction occurs when specific pathogen motifs bind to specific cellular receptors. In non-professional immune, virally-infected cells, IFN induction is essentially initiated after the binding of dsRNA structures to TLR3 receptors or to intracytosolic RNA helicases, such as RIG-I /MDA5. This leads to the recruitment of specific adaptors, such as TRIF for TLR3 and the mitochondrial-associated IPS-1/VISA/MAVS/CARDIF adapter protein for the RNA helicases, and the ultimate recruitment of kinases, such as MAPKs, the canonical IKK complex and the TBK1/IKKε kinases, which activate the transcription factors ATF-2/c-jun, NF-κB and IRF3, respectively. The coordinated action of these transcription factors leads to induction of IFN and of pro-inflammatory cytokines and to the establishment of the innate immune response. HCV can cleave both the adapters TRIF and IPS-1/VISA/MAVS/CARDIF through the action of its NS3/4A protease. This provokes abrogation of the induction of the IFN and cytokine pathways and favours viral propagation and presumably HCV chronic infection.
PMCID: PMC4146763  PMID: 17552028
Toll-like receptor; RNA helicase; Mitochondrial adapter Cardif; TBK1/IKKepsilon; Interferon induction; HCV NS3A protease
4.  COX5B Regulates MAVS-mediated Antiviral Signaling through Interaction with ATG5 and Repressing ROS Production 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(12):e1003086.
Innate antiviral immunity is the first line of the host defense system that rapidly detects invading viruses. Mitochondria function as platforms for innate antiviral signal transduction in mammals through the adaptor protein, MAVS. Excessive activation of MAVS-mediated antiviral signaling leads to dysfunction of mitochondria and cell apoptosis that likely causes the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. However, the mechanism of how MAVS is regulated at mitochondria remains unknown. Here we show that the Cytochrome c Oxidase (CcO) complex subunit COX5B physically interacts with MAVS and negatively regulates the MAVS-mediated antiviral pathway. Mechanistically, we find that while activation of MAVS leads to increased ROS production and COX5B expression, COX5B down-regulated MAVS signaling by repressing ROS production. Importantly, our study reveals that COX5B coordinates with the autophagy pathway to control MAVS aggregation, thereby balancing the antiviral signaling activity. Thus, our study provides novel insights into the link between mitochondrial electron transport system and the autophagy pathway in regulating innate antiviral immunity.
Author Summary
Pattern recognition receptors are vital to innate immunity. In the antiviral innate immunity, retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I)-like receptors (RLRs), such as RIG-I and MDA5, sense viral RNAs through their C-terminal helicase domains, then initiate the antiviral response through interaction with the essential adaptor protein MAVS, which is located in mitochondrial outer membrane. Although cumulative studies have showed that mitochondria-associated MAVS plays an important role in antiviral signaling, much remains unknown about the mechanism of MAVS activity related to mitochondrial membrane localization. In this article we demonstrate that the CcO complex subunit COX5B negatively regulates the MAVS-mediated antiviral pathway through interaction with MAVS. At the mechanistic level, we show that COX5B inhibits MAVS-mediated antiviral pathway by suppressing ROS production, and coordinating with the autophagy pathway to control MAVS aggregation. Our data support a notion that mitochondrial electron transport system coordinates with the autophagy pathway to regulate MAVS-mediated signaling for a tight control of innate antiviral immunity.
PMCID: PMC3534373  PMID: 23308066
5.  HCV-Induced miR-21 Contributes to Evasion of Host Immune System by Targeting MyD88 and IRAK1 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(4):e1003248.
Upon recognition of viral components by pattern recognition receptors, such as the toll-like receptors (TLRs) and retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I)-like helicases, cells are activated to produce type I interferon (IFN) and proinflammatory cytokines. These pathways are tightly regulated by the host to prevent an inappropriate cellular response, but viruses can modulate these pathways to proliferate and spread. In this study, we revealed a novel mechanism in which hepatitis C virus (HCV) evades the immune surveillance system to proliferate by activating microRNA-21 (miR-21). We demonstrated that HCV infection upregulates miR-21, which in turn suppresses HCV-triggered type I IFN production, thus promoting HCV replication. Furthermore, we demonstrated that miR-21 targets two important factors in the TLR signaling pathway, myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88) and interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase 1 (IRAK1), which are involved in HCV-induced type I IFN production. HCV-mediated activation of miR-21 expression requires viral proteins and several signaling components. Moreover, we identified a transcription factor, activating protein-1 (AP-1), which is partly responsible for miR-21 induction in response to HCV infection through PKCε/JNK/c-Jun and PKCα/ERK/c-Fos cascades. Taken together, our results indicate that miR-21 is upregulated during HCV infection and negatively regulates IFN-α signaling through MyD88 and IRAK1 and may be a potential therapeutic target for antiviral intervention.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C virus (HCV), a major cause of chronic hepatitis, end-stage cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma, has chronically infected 200 million people worldwide and 3–4 million more each year. When triggered by viral infection, host cells produce type I interferon (IFN) and proinflammatory cytokines to antagonize the virus. Despite extensive research, the mechanism underlying HCV immune system evasion remains elusive. Our results provided the first direct evidence that microRNA-21 (miR-21) feedback inhibits type I IFN signaling when cells are challenged with HCV, thus promoting the infection. MicroRNA is a kind of endogenous non-coding small RNA that regulates a wide range of biological processes and participate in innate and adaptive immune responses through complementarily pairing with target mRNA, which can regulate its expression or translation. Currently, miRNAs have intrigued many scientists as potent targets or therapeutic agents for diseases. In our study, the targets of miR-21, myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88) and interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase 1 (IRAK1), which are important for HCV-induced type I IFN production, have also been found. Moreover, we identified a transcription factor, AP-1, which is partly responsible for miR-21 induction in response to HCV infection. Taken together, our research has provided new insights into understanding the effects of miRNA on host-virus interactions, and revealed a potential therapeutic target for antiviral intervention.
PMCID: PMC3635988  PMID: 23633945
6.  Optineurin Negatively Regulates the Induction of IFNβ in Response to RNA Virus Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(2):e1000778.
The innate immune response provides a critical defense against microbial infections, including viruses. These are recognised by pattern recognition receptors including Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and RIG-I like helicases (RLHs). Detection of virus triggers signalling cascades that induce transcription of type I interferons including IFNβ, which are pivotal for the initiation of an anti-viral state. Despite the essential role of IFNβ in the anti-viral response, there is an incomplete understanding of the negative regulation of IFNβ induction. Here we provide evidence that expression of the Nemo-related protein, optineurin (NRP/FIP2), has a role in the inhibition of virus-triggered IFNβ induction. Over-expression of optineurin inhibited Sendai-virus (SeV) and dsRNA triggered induction of IFNβ, whereas depletion of optineurin with siRNA promoted virus-induced IFNβ production and decreased RNA virus replication. Immunoprecipitation and immunofluorescence studies identified optineurin in a protein complex containing the antiviral protein kinase TBK1 and the ubiquitin ligase TRAF3. Furthermore, mutagenesis studies determined that binding of ubiquitin was essential for both the correct sub-cellular localisation and the inhibitory function of optineurin. This work identifies optineurin as a critical regulator of antiviral signalling and potential target for future antiviral therapy.
Author Summary
Viral infection stimulates the innate immune response to produce various cytokines and chemokines to induce an anti-viral state within the host. The best studied of these are the type I interferons (IFNα/β), which are essential for an effective anti-viral response. Our understanding of how IFNβ is regulated is not well understood. This study demonstrates that the Nemo-related protein optineurin helps to regulate the levels of IFNβ in response to virus infection. We expressed optineurin in cells and found that the cells failed to express IFNβ when infected with various RNA viruses. Using biochemical experiments we showed that optineurin interacts with the protein kinase TBK1 and the ubiquitin ligase TRAF3. Furthermore, a mutation in optineurin that prevents the interaction with the small protein modifier ubiquitin (D474N) ablated the negative regulatory function of optineurin. Our findings provide a first example of a role for optineurin in anti-viral signalling and aid in our understanding of the negative regulation of IFNβ.
PMCID: PMC2824764  PMID: 20174559
7.  Hepatitis C virus NS2 and NS3/4A proteins are potent inhibitors of host cell cytokine/chemokine gene expression 
Virology Journal  2006;3:66.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) encodes several proteins that interfere with the host cell antiviral response. Previously, the serine protease NS3/4A was shown to inhibit IFN-β gene expression by blocking dsRNA-activated retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) and Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3)-mediated signaling pathways.
In the present work, we systematically studied the effect of all HCV proteins on IFN gene expression. NS2 and NS3/4A inhibited IFN gene activation. NS3/4A inhibited the Sendai virus-induced expression of multiple IFN (IFN-α, IFN-β and IFN-λ1/IL-29) and chemokine (CCL5, CXCL8 and CXCL10) gene promoters. NS2 and NS3/4A, but not its proteolytically inactive form NS3/4A-S139A, were found to inhibit promoter activity induced by RIG-I or its adaptor protein Cardif (or IPS-1/MAVS/VISA). Both endogenous and transfected Cardif were proteolytically cleaved by NS3/4A but not by NS2 indicating different mechanisms of inhibition of host cell cytokine production by these HCV encoded proteases. Cardif also strongly colocalized with NS3/4A at the mitochondrial membrane, implicating the mitochondrial membrane as the site for proteolytic cleavage. In many experimental systems, IFN priming dramatically enhances RNA virus-induced IFN gene expression; pretreatment of HEK293 cells with IFN-α strongly enhanced RIG-I expression, but failed to protect Cardif from NS3/4A-mediated cleavage and failed to restore Sendai virus-induced IFN-β gene expression.
HCV NS2 and NS3/4A proteins were identified as potent inhibitors of cytokine gene expression suggesting an important role for HCV proteases in counteracting host cell antiviral response.
PMCID: PMC1569370  PMID: 16945160
8.  Interaction of Hepatitis C virus proteins with pattern recognition receptors 
Virology Journal  2012;9:126.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an important human pathogen that causes acute and chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma worldwide. This positive stranded RNA virus is extremely efficient in establishing persistent infection by escaping immune detection or hindering the host immune responses. Recent studies have discovered two important signaling pathways that activate the host innate immunity against viral infection. One of these pathways utilizes members of Toll-like receptor (TLR) family and the other uses the RNA helicase retinoic acid inducible gene I (RIG-I) as the receptors for intracellular viral double stranded RNA (dsRNA), and activation of transcription factors. In this review article, we summarize the interaction of HCV proteins with various host receptors/sensors through one of these two pathways or both, and how they exploit these interactions to escape from host defense mechanisms. For this purpose, we searched data from Pubmed and Google Scholar. We found that three HCV proteins; Core (C), non structural 3/4 A (NS3/4A) and non structural 5A (NS5A) have direct interactions with these two pathways. Core protein only in the monomeric form stimulates TLR2 pathway assisting the virus to evade from the innate immune system. NS3/4A disrupts TLR3 and RIG-1 signaling pathways by cleaving Toll/IL-1 receptor domain-containing adapter inducing IFN-beta (TRIF) and Cardif, the two important adapter proteins of these signaling cascades respectively, thus halting the defense against HCV. NS5A downmodulates the expressions of NKG2D on natural killer cells (NK cells) via TLR4 pathway and impairs the functional ability of these cells. TLRs and RIG-1 pathways have a central role in innate immunity and despite their opposing natures to HCV proteins, when exploited together, HCV as an ever developing virus against host immunity is able to accumulate these mechanisms for near unbeatable survival.
PMCID: PMC3538621  PMID: 22726246
Hepatitis C virus; Toll-like receptors; Anti-viral pathways
9.  Acrolein, a ubiquitous pollutant and lipid hydroperoxide, inhibits antiviral activity of interferon-alpha: relevance to Hepatitis C 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major cause of chronic liver disease and can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma and end-stage liver disease. The current FDA-approved treatment for HCV (pegylated interferon-alpha (IFNα) with ribavirin) is effective only in about 50% of patients. Epidemiological evidence suggests that obesity, alcohol, smoking and environmental pollutants may contribute to resistance to IFNα therapy in HCV. Acrolein, a ubiquitous environmental pollutant and major component of cigarette smoke, is also generated endogenously by cellular metabolism and lipid peroxidation. This study examines the effects of acrolein on (i) IFNα-mediated signaling and antiviral gene expression in cultured and primary human hepatocytes, and (ii) HCV replication in an HCV-replicon system. Our data demonstrate that non-toxic concentrations of acrolein significantly inhibited IFNα-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of both cytoplasmic and nuclear STAT1 and STAT2, without altering the total levels. Also, acrolein down-regulated IFNα stimulated gene transcription, resulting in reduced expression of antiviral genes. Importantly, acrolein abolished the IFNα mediated downregulation of HCV viral expression in the HCV-replicon system. This study defines mechanisms involved in resistance to IFNα and identifies the pathogenic role of acrolein, and potentially other environmental pollutants, in suppressing IFNα antiviral activity, and establishes their adverse impact on HCV therapy.
PMCID: PMC3947765  PMID: 19345260
Environmental pollutant; acrolein; hepatitis C virus; interferon alpha; JAK-STAT signaling; lipid peroxidation products
10.  Hepatitis C Virus Reveals a Novel Early Control in Acute Immune Response 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(10):e1002289.
Recognition of viral RNA structures by the intracytosolic RNA helicase RIG-I triggers induction of innate immunity. Efficient induction requires RIG-I ubiquitination by the E3 ligase TRIM25, its interaction with the mitochondria-bound MAVS protein, recruitment of TRAF3, IRF3- and NF-κB-kinases and transcription of Interferon (IFN). In addition, IRF3 alone induces some of the Interferon-Stimulated Genes (ISGs), referred to as early ISGs. Infection of hepatocytes with Hepatitis C virus (HCV) results in poor production of IFN despite recognition of the viral RNA by RIG-I but can lead to induction of early ISGs. HCV was shown to inhibit IFN production by cleaving MAVS through its NS3/4A protease and by controlling cellular translation through activation of PKR, an eIF2α-kinase containing dsRNA-binding domains (DRBD). Here, we have identified a third mode of control of IFN induction by HCV. Using HCVcc and the Huh7.25.CD81 cells, we found that HCV controls RIG-I ubiquitination through the di-ubiquitine-like protein ISG15, one of the early ISGs. A transcriptome analysis performed on Huh7.25.CD81 cells silenced or not for PKR and infected with JFH1 revealed that HCV infection leads to induction of 49 PKR-dependent genes, including ISG15 and several early ISGs. Silencing experiments revealed that this novel PKR-dependent pathway involves MAVS, TRAF3 and IRF3 but not RIG-I, and that it does not induce IFN. Use of PKR inhibitors showed that this pathway requires the DRBD but not the kinase activity of PKR. We then demonstrated that PKR interacts with HCV RNA and MAVS prior to RIG-I. In conclusion, HCV recruits PKR early in infection as a sensor to trigger induction of several IRF3-dependent genes. Among those, ISG15 acts to negatively control the RIG-I/MAVS pathway, at the level of RIG-I ubiquitination.These data give novel insights in the machinery involved in the early events of innate immune response.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is a poor interferon (IFN) inducer, despite recognition of its RNA by the cytosolic RNA helicase RIG-I. This is due in part through cleavage of MAVS, a downstream adapter of RIG-I, by the HCV NS3/4A protease and through activation of the eIF2α-kinase PKR to control IFN translation. Here, we show that HCV also inhibits RIG-I activation through the ubiquitin-like protein ISG15 and that HCV triggers rapid induction of 49 genes, including ISG15, through a novel signaling pathway that precedes RIG-I and involves PKR as an adapter to recruit MAVS. Hence, we propose to divide the acute response to HCV infection into one early (PKR) and one late (RIG-I) phase, with the former controlling the latter. Furthermore, these data emphazise the need to check compounds designed as immune adjuvants for activation of the early acute phase before using them to sustain innate immunity.
PMCID: PMC3192838  PMID: 22022264
11.  Proteomic Profiling of the TRAF3 Interactome Network Reveals a New Role for the ER-to-Golgi Transport Compartments in Innate Immunity 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(7):e1002747.
Tumor Necrosis Factor receptor-associated factor-3 (TRAF3) is a central mediator important for inducing type I interferon (IFN) production in response to intracellular double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). Here, we report the identification of Sec16A and p115, two proteins of the ER-to-Golgi vesicular transport system, as novel components of the TRAF3 interactome network. Notably, in non-infected cells, TRAF3 was found associated with markers of the ER-Exit-Sites (ERES), ER-to-Golgi intermediate compartment (ERGIC) and the cis-Golgi apparatus. Upon dsRNA and dsDNA sensing however, the Golgi apparatus fragmented into cytoplasmic punctated structures containing TRAF3 allowing its colocalization and interaction with Mitochondrial AntiViral Signaling (MAVS), the essential mitochondria-bound RIG-I-like Helicase (RLH) adaptor. In contrast, retention of TRAF3 at the ER-to-Golgi vesicular transport system blunted the ability of TRAF3 to interact with MAVS upon viral infection and consequently decreased type I IFN response. Moreover, depletion of Sec16A and p115 led to a drastic disorganization of the Golgi paralleled by the relocalization of TRAF3, which under these conditions was unable to associate with MAVS. Consequently, upon dsRNA and dsDNA sensing, ablation of Sec16A and p115 was found to inhibit IRF3 activation and anti-viral gene expression. Reciprocally, mild overexpression of Sec16A or p115 in Hec1B cells increased the activation of IFNβ, ISG56 and NF-κB -dependent promoters following viral infection and ectopic expression of MAVS and Tank-binding kinase-1 (TBK1). In line with these results, TRAF3 was found enriched in immunocomplexes composed of p115, Sec16A and TBK1 upon infection. Hence, we propose a model where dsDNA and dsRNA sensing induces the formation of membrane-bound compartments originating from the Golgi, which mediate the dynamic association of TRAF3 with MAVS leading to an optimal induction of innate immune responses.
Author Summary
In response to pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, infected cells defend themselves by generating a set of cytokines called type I interferon (IFN). Since Type I IFN (namely IFN alpha and beta) are potent antiviral agents, understanding the cellular mechanisms by which infected cells produce type I IFN is required to identify novel cellular targets for future antiviral therapies. Notably, a protein called Tumor Necrosis Factor receptor-associated factor-3 (TRAF3) was demonstrated to be an essential mediator of this antiviral response. However, how TRAF3 reacts in response to a viral infection is still not totally understood. We now demonstrate that, through its capacity to interact with other proteins (namely Sec16A and p115) that normally control protein secretion, TRAF3 resides close to the nucleus in uninfected cells, in a region called the ER-to-Golgi Intermediate Compartment (ERGIC). Following viral infection, the ERGIC reorganizes into small punctate structures allowing TRAF3 to associate with Mitochondrial AntiViral Signaling (MAVS), an essential adaptor of the anti-viral type I IFN response. Thus, our study reveals an unpredicted role of the protein secretion system for the proper localization of TRAF3 and the antiviral response.
PMCID: PMC3390413  PMID: 22792062
12.  Retinoic acid inducible gene-I (RIG-I) signaling of hepatic stellate cells inhibits hepatitis C virus replication in hepatocytes 
Innate immunity  2012;19(2):193-202.
Retinoic acid inducible gene-I (RIG-I) is critical in the activation of the type I IFN-dependent antiviral innate immune response to hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. We examined whether hepatic stellate cells (HSC; LX-2) possess a functional RIG-I signaling pathway and produce antiviral factors that can inhibit HCV. We showed that LX-2 cells treated with the RIG-I ligand (5′ppp-dsRNA) expressed significantly higher levels of IFN-β and IFN-λ than the control cells. The RIG-I activation in LX-2 cells also induced the expression of Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) and IFN regulatory factor-7 (IRF-7), the key regulators of the IFN signaling pathway. When HCV Japanese fulminant hepatitis (JFH)-1-infected hepatocytes were co-cultured with LX-2 cells stimulated with 5′ppp-dsRNA or incubated in media conditioned with supernatant (SN) from 5′ppp-dsRNA-stimulated LX-2 cells, HCV replication in hepatocytes was suppressed significantly. This LX-2 cell action on HCV replication was mediated through both IFN-β and IFN-λ, as Abs to IFN-α/β or IFN-λ receptors could neutralize the LX-2 SN-mediated anti-HCV effect. The role of IFNs in LX-2 cell-mediated anti-HCV activity is further supported by the observation that LX-2 SN treatment induced the expression of IFN stimulated genes, 2′-5′-oligoadenylate synthase-1 (OAS-1) and myxovirus resistance A (MxA), in HCV-infected Huh7 cells. These observations highlight the importance of HSC in liver innate immunity against HCV infection via a RIG-I-mediated signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3935722  PMID: 23060457
Hepatic stellate cells; hepatitis C virus; interferon; interferon stimulated genes; retinoic acid inducible gene-I
13.  Class A Scavenger Receptor 1 (MSR1) Restricts Hepatitis C Virus Replication by Mediating Toll-like Receptor 3 Recognition of Viral RNAs Produced in Neighboring Cells 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(5):e1003345.
Persistent infections with hepatitis C virus (HCV) may result in life-threatening liver disease, including cirrhosis and cancer, and impose an important burden on human health. Understanding how the virus is capable of achieving persistence in the majority of those infected is thus an important goal. Although HCV has evolved multiple mechanisms to disrupt and block cellular signaling pathways involved in the induction of interferon (IFN) responses, IFN-stimulated gene (ISG) expression is typically prominent in the HCV-infected liver. Here, we show that Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) expressed within uninfected hepatocytes is capable of sensing infection in adjacent cells, initiating a local antiviral response that partially restricts HCV replication. We demonstrate that this is dependent upon the expression of class A scavenger receptor type 1 (MSR1). MSR1 binds extracellular dsRNA, mediating its endocytosis and transport toward the endosome where it is engaged by TLR3, thereby triggering IFN responses in both infected and uninfected cells. RNAi-mediated knockdown of MSR1 expression blocks TLR3 sensing of HCV in infected hepatocyte cultures, leading to increased cellular permissiveness to virus infection. Exogenous expression of Myc-MSR1 restores TLR3 signaling in MSR1-depleted cells with subsequent induction of an antiviral state. A series of conserved basic residues within the carboxy-terminus of the collagen superfamily domain of MSR1 are required for binding and transport of dsRNA, and likely facilitate acidification-dependent release of dsRNA at the site of TLR3 expression in the endosome. Our findings reveal MSR1 to be a critical component of a TLR3-mediated pattern recognition receptor response that exerts an antiviral state in both infected and uninfected hepatocytes, thereby limiting the impact of HCV proteins that disrupt IFN signaling in infected cells and restricting the spread of HCV within the liver.
Author Summary
Persistent hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is an important cause of fatal cirrhosis and liver cancer in humans. While viral disruption of interferon (IFN) signaling pathways may contribute to the persistence of HCV, IFN-stimulated gene (ISG) expression is often prominent within the infected liver. We show here that this is due, at least in part, to Toll-like receptor 3 sensing of HCV mediated by class A scavenger receptor type 1 (MSR1)-dependent endocytosis and transport of extracellular viral double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) allowing it to be engaged by TLR3 in the late endosome. TLR3 expressed within uninfected cells is capable of sensing HCV infection in neighboring infected cells in a process that is dependent upon the dsRNA-scavenging activity of MSR1, resulting in the induction of a localized functional antiviral response. This contributes to the ISG expression that typifies the chronically-infected liver, as it occurs within cells that do not express HCV proteins that disrupt IFN signaling. TLR3 signaling thus limits the spread of virus within the liver, potentially explaining why only a small fraction of hepatocytes are infected with HCV in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3662657  PMID: 23717201
14.  Increased expression of Toll-like receptor 3 in intrahepatic biliary epithelial cells at sites of ductular reaction in diseased livers 
Hepatology International  2008;2(2):222-230.
Background Toll-like receptors (TLRs) may play active roles in both innate and adaptive immune responses in human intrahepatic biliary epithelial cells (HIBECs). The role of TLR3 expressed by HIBECs, however, remains unclear. Methods We determined the in vivo expression of TLRs in biopsy specimens derived from diseased livers immunohistochemically using a panel of monoclonal antibodies against human TLRs. We then examined the response of cultured HIBECs to a TLR3 ligand, polyinosinic–polycytidylic acid (polyI:C). Using siRNAs specific for Toll-IL-1R homology domain-containing adaptor molecule 1 (TICAM-1) and mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS), we studied signaling pathways inducing IFN-β expression. Results The expression of TLR3 was markedly increased in biliary epithelial cells at sites of ductular reaction in diseased livers, including primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), and chronic viral hepatitis (CH) as compared to nondiseased livers. Although cultured HIBECs constitutively expressed TLR3 at both the protein and mRNA levels in vitro, the addition of polyI:C to culture media induced only minimal increases in IFN-β mRNA. In contrast, transfection of HIBECs with polyI:C induced a marked increase in mRNAs encoding a variety of chemokines/cytokines, including IFN-β, IL-6, and TNF-α. The induction of IFN-β mRNA was efficiently inhibited by an siRNA against MAVS but not against TICAM-1, indicating that the main signaling pathway for IFN-β induction following polyI:C transfection is via retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I)/melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 (MDA5) in HIBECs. Conclusions TLR3 expression by biliary epithelial cells increased at sites of ductular reaction in diseased livers; further study will be necessary to characterize it’s in vivo physiological role.
PMCID: PMC2716858  PMID: 19669308
Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC); Human intrahepatic biliary epithelial cells (HIBECs); Interferon beta (IFN-β); Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) Toll-IL-1R homology domain-containing adaptor molecule 1 (TICAM-1); Mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS); Retinoic acid inducible gene I (RIG-I); Melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 (MDA5)
15.  Type I Interferon Upregulates Bak and Contributes to T Cell Loss during Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003658.
The role of Type I interferon (IFN) during pathogenic HIV and SIV infections remains unclear, with conflicting observations suggesting protective versus immunopathological effects. We therefore examined the effect of IFNα/β on T cell death and viremia in HIV infection. Ex vivo analysis of eight pro- and anti-apoptotic molecules in chronic HIV-1 infection revealed that pro-apoptotic Bak was increased in CD4+ T cells and correlated directly with sensitivity to CD95/Fas-mediated apoptosis and inversely with CD4+ T cell counts. Apoptosis sensitivity and Bak expression were primarily increased in effector memory T cells. Knockdown of Bak by RNA interference inhibited CD95/Fas-induced death of T cells from HIV-1-infected individuals. In HIV-1-infected patients, IFNα-stimulated gene expression correlated positively with ex vivo T cell Bak levels, CD95/Fas-mediated apoptosis and viremia and negatively with CD4+ T cell counts. In vitro IFNα/β stimulation enhanced Bak expression, CD95/Fas expression and CD95/Fas-mediated apoptosis in healthy donor T cells and induced death of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells from HIV-1-infected patients. HIV-1 in vitro sensitized T cells to CD95/Fas-induced apoptosis and this was Toll-like receptor (TLR)7/9- and Type I IFN-dependent. This sensitization by HIV-1 was due to an indirect effect on T cells, as it occurred in peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures but not purified CD4+ T cells. Finally, peak IFNα levels and viral loads correlated negatively during acute SIV infection suggesting a potential antiviral effect, but positively during chronic SIV infection indicating that either the virus drives IFNα production or IFNα may facilitate loss of viral control. The above findings indicate stage-specific opposing effects of Type I IFNs during HIV-1 infection and suggest a novel mechanism by which these cytokines contribute to T cell depletion, dysregulation of cellular immunity and disease progression.
Author Summary
Type I interferons (IFNα/β) are innate immune mediators that are produced by cells in response to viral infections. Although the protective effects of IFNα/β are well-established, it is not clear whether these cytokines are beneficial or deleterious during HIV-1 infection. We report that HIV-1 infection renders T cells more prone to undergo programmed death and that this enhanced apoptosis susceptibility is associated with abnormal expression of pro- and anti-apoptotic molecules. Importantly, IFNα/β increases the expression level of the pro-apoptotic protein, Bak, a major gatekeeper of the mitochondrial apoptosis machinery. Exposure of healthy donor T cells to IFNα/β increased Bak expression and induced an apoptosis sensitivity that is similar to what is observed in HIV-1-infected patient T cells. Furthermore, elevated IFNα production and Bak expression correlated with heightened T cell apoptosis, low CD4+ T cell numbers and high viral loads in patients. In a primate model of HIV-1 infection, we observed that increased IFNα was associated with low peak viral loads in early infection, but high viremia and decreased CD4+ T cell counts during chronic infection. These studies identify a novel mechanism by which Type I IFN may induce immune dysfunction in HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3795023  PMID: 24130482
16.  IPS-1 Signaling Has a Non-Redundant Role in Mediating Antiviral Responses and the Clearance of Respiratory Syncytial Virus 
The cytosolic RNA helicases melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 (MdA5) and retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I) and their adaptor IFNβ promotor stimulator (IPS-1) have been implicated in the recognition of viral RNA and the production of type I interferon (IFN). Complementing the endosomal Toll-like receptors (TLR), Mda5 and RIG-I provide alternative mechanisms for viral detection in cells with reduced phagocytosis or autophagy. The infection route of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) - via fusion of virus particles with the cell membrane - points to IPS-1 signaling as the pathway of choice for downstream antiviral responses. In the present study, viral clearance and inflammation resolution were indeed strongly affected by the absence of an initial IPS-1-mediated IFNβ response. Despite the blunted inflammatory response in IPS-1 deficient alveolar epithelial cells, pulmonary macrophages and CD11b+ dendritic cells (DC), lungs of RSV-infected IPS-1 knockout (KO) mice showed augmented recruitment of inflammatory neutrophils, monocytes and DC. Interestingly, pulmonary CD103+ DC could functionally compensate for IPS-1 deficiency with the up-regulation of certain inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, possibly via TLR3 and TLR7 signaling. The increased inflammation and reduced viral clearance in IPS-1 KO mice was accompanied by increased T-cell activation and IFNγ production. Experiments with bone marrow chimeras indicated that RSV-induced lung pathology was most severe when IPS-1 expression was lacking in both immune and non-immune cell populations. Similarly, viral clearance was rescued upon restored IPS-1 signaling in either the non-immune or the immune compartment. These data support a non-redundant function for IPS-1 in controlling RSV-induced inflammation and viral replication.
PMCID: PMC3888965  PMID: 23136205
17.  Inhibition of RIG-I-Dependent Signaling to the Interferon Pathway during Hepatitis C Virus Expression and Restoration of Signaling by IKKɛ 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(7):3969-3978.
Interferon (IFN) is one important effector of the innate immune response, induced by different viral or bacterial components through Toll-like receptor (TLR)-dependent and -independent mechanisms. As part of its pathogenic strategy, hepatitis C virus (HCV) interferes with the innate immune response and induction of IFN-β via the HCV NS3/4A protease activity which inhibits phosphorylation of IRF-3, a key transcriptional regulator of the IFN response. In the present study, we demonstrate that inhibition by the protease occurs upstream of the noncanonical IKK-related kinases IKKɛ and TBK-1, which phosphorylate IRF-3, through partial inhibition of the TLR adapter protein TRIF/TICAM1-dependent pathway. Use of TRIF−/− mouse embryo fibroblasts however revealed the presence of a TRIF-independent pathway involved in IFN induction that was also inhibited by NS3/4A. Importantly, we show that NS3/4A can strongly inhibit the ability of the recently described RIG-I protein to activate IFN, suggesting that RIG-I is a key factor in the TRIF-independent, NS3/4A-sensitive pathway. Expression of IFN signaling components including IKKɛ, TBK-1, TRIF, and wild type or constitutively active forms of RIG-I in the HCV replicon cells resulted in IFN-β promoter transactivation, with IKKɛ displaying the highest efficiency. Subsequently, overexpression of IKKɛ resulted in 80% inhibition of both the positive and negative replicative strands of the HCV replicon. The partial restoration of the capacity of the host cell to transcribe IFN-β indicates that IKKɛ expression is able to bypass the HCV-mediated inhibition and restore the innate antiviral response.
PMCID: PMC1061556  PMID: 15767399
18.  Uridine Composition of the Poly-U/UC Tract of HCV RNA Defines Non-Self Recognition by RIG-I 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(8):e1002839.
Viral infection of mammalian cells triggers the innate immune response through non-self recognition of pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) in viral nucleic acid. Accurate PAMP discrimination is essential to avoid self recognition that can generate autoimmunity, and therefore should be facilitated by the presence of multiple motifs in a PAMP that mark it as non-self. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA is recognized as non-self by RIG-I through the presence of a 5′-triphosphate (5′-ppp) on the viral RNA in association with a 3′ poly-U/UC tract. Here we define the HCV PAMP and the criteria for RIG-I non-self discrimination of HCV by examining the RNA structure-function attributes that impart PAMP function to the poly-U/UC tract. We found that the 34 nucleotide poly-uridine “core” of this sequence tract was essential for RIG-I activation, and that interspersed ribocytosine nucleotides between poly-U sequences in the RNA were required to achieve optimal RIG-I signal induction. 5′-ppp poly-U/UC RNA variants that stimulated strong RIG-I activation efficiently bound purified RIG-I protein in vitro, and RNA interaction with both the repressor domain and helicase domain of RIG-I was required to activate signaling. When appended to 5′-ppp RNA that lacks PAMP activity, the poly-U/UC U-core sequence conferred non-self recognition of the RNA and innate immune signaling by RIG-I. Importantly, HCV poly-U/UC RNA variants that strongly activated RIG-I signaling triggered potent anti-HCV responses in vitro and hepatic innate immune responses in vivo using a mouse model of PAMP signaling. These studies define a multi-motif PAMP signature of non-self recognition by RIG-I that incorporates a 5′-ppp with poly-uridine sequence composition and length. This HCV PAMP motif drives potent RIG-I signaling to induce the innate immune response to infection. Our studies define a basis of non-self discrimination by RIG-I and offer insights into the antiviral therapeutic potential of targeted RIG-I signaling activation.
Author Summary
Pathogen recognition receptors (PRRs) are critical components of the innate immune response to viral pathogens, and function in the host to recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) in viral proteins or nucleic acids. Retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) is a cytoplasmic PRR that senses viral RNA inside an infected cell. RIG-I recognizes hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA as non-self through the presence of both a 5′-triphosphate (5′-ppp) and a 3′ poly-U/UC tract within the viral RNA. Here we examined the RNA structure-function attributes that define the HCV poly-U/UC tract as non-self to RIG-I, including nucleotide composition. We found that the 34 nucleotide poly-uridine “core” (U-core) within the HCV poly-U/UC tract RNA was required for non-self recognition by RIG-I, and interspersed ribocytosine nucleotides were also important to induce optimal RIG-I signaling. RIG-I/RNA binding studies revealed that RIG-I formed weaker interactions with HCV RNAs lacking poly-U sequences, and RNA interaction with multiple domains of RIG-I was required to activate signaling. Finally, RIG-I recognition of the U-core within the poly-U/UC tract activated anti-HCV responses in vitro and hepatic innate immune responses in vivo. Our studies identify long poly-uridine sequences with interspersed ribocytosines as an HCV PAMP motif that drives optimal RIG-I signaling.
PMCID: PMC3410852  PMID: 22912574
19.  Activation of Pattern Recognition Receptor-Mediated Innate Immunity Inhibits the Replication of Hepatitis B Virus in Human Hepatocyte-Derived Cells▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;83(2):847-858.
Recognition of virus infections by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), such as Toll-like receptors (TLRs), retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I), and melanoma differentiation associated gene 5 (MDA5), activates signaling pathways, leading to the induction of inflammatory cytokines that limit viral replication. To determine the effects of PRR-mediated innate immune response on hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication, a 1.3mer HBV genome was cotransfected into HepG2 or Huh7 cells with plasmid expressing TLR adaptors, myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), and TIR-domain-containing adaptor-inducing beta interferon (TRIF), or RIG-I/MDA5 adaptor, interferon promoter stimulator 1 (IPS-1). The results showed that expressing each of the three adaptors dramatically reduced the levels of HBV mRNA and DNA in both HepG2 and Huh7 cells. However, HBV replication was not significantly affected by treatment of HBV genome-transfected cells with culture media harvested from cells transfected with each of the three adaptors, indicating that the adaptor-induced antiviral response was predominantly mediated by intracellular factors rather than by secreted cytokines. Analyses of involved signaling pathways revealed that activation of NF-κB is required for all three adaptors to elicit antiviral response in both HepG2 and Huh7 cells. However, activation of interferon regulatory factor 3 is only essential for induction of antiviral response by IPS-1 in Huh7 cells, but not in HepG2 cells. Furthermore, our results suggest that besides NF-κB, additional signaling pathway(s) are required for TRIF to induce a maximum antiviral response against HBV. Knowing the molecular mechanisms by which PRR-mediated innate defense responses control HBV infections could potentially lead to the development of novel therapeutics that evoke the host cellular innate antiviral response to control HBV infections.
PMCID: PMC2612386  PMID: 18971270
20.  Differential, Type I Interferon-Mediated Autophagic Trafficking of Hepatitis C Virus Proteins in Mouse Liver 
Gastroenterology  2011;141(2):674-685.e6.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) serine protease NS3/4A can cleave mitochondria-associated, anti-viral signaling protein (MAVS) and block retinoic acid-inducible gene I–mediated interferon (IFN) responses. Although this mechanism is thought to have an important role in HCV-mediated innate immunosuppression, its significance in viral persistence is not clear.
We generated transgenic mice that express the HCV NS3/4A proteins specifically in the liver and challenged the animals with a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a synthetic HCV genome, IFN-α, or IFN-β. We evaluated the effects of HCV serine protease on the innate immune responses and their interactions.
Expression of HCV NS3/4A resulted in cleavage of intrahepatic MAVS; challenge of transgenic mice with VSV or a synthetic HCV genome induced strong, type I IFN-mediated responses that were not significantly lower than those of control mice. Different challenge agents induced production of different ratios of IFN-α and -β, resulting in different autophagic responses and vesicular trafficking patterns of endoplasmic reticulum- and mitochondria-associated viral proteins. IFN-β promoted degradation of the viral proteins by the autolysosome. Variant isoforms of MAVS were associated with distinct, type I IFN-mediated autophagic responses; these responses have a role in trafficking of viral components to endosomal compartments that contain toll-like receptor -3.
IFN-β-mediates a distinct autophagic mechanism of anti-viral host defense. MAVS have an important role in type I IFN-induced autophagic trafficking of viral proteins.
PMCID: PMC3152629  PMID: 21683701
Autophagy; TLR3; liver disease; RIG-I
21.  HCV Innate Immune Responses 
Viruses  2009;1(3):1073-1088.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) establishes a persistent infection in more than 70% of infected individuals. This striking ability to evade the powerful innate immune system results from viral interference occurring at several levels of the interferon (IFN) system. There is strong evidence from cell culture experiments that HCV can inhibit the induction of IFNβ by cleaving important proteins in the virus sensory pathways of cells such as MAVS and TRIF. There is also evidence that HCV interferes with IFNα signaling through the Jak-STAT pathway, and that HCV proteins target IFN effector systems such as protein kinase R (PKR). These in vitro findings will have to be confirmed in clinical trials investigating the molecular mechanisms of HCV interference with the innate immune system in liver samples.
PMCID: PMC3185522  PMID: 21994583
interferon; MAVS; Toll-like receptors; Jak-STAT; HCV; viral interference
22.  GB Virus B Disrupts RIG-I Signaling by NS3/4A-Mediated Cleavage of the Adaptor Protein MAVS▿  
Journal of Virology  2006;81(2):964-976.
Understanding the mechanisms of hepatitis C virus (HCV) pathogenesis and persistence has been hampered by the lack of small, convenient animal models. GB virus B (GBV-B) is phylogenetically the closest related virus to HCV. It causes generally acute and occasionally chronic hepatitis in small primates and is used as a surrogate model for HCV. It is not known, however, whether GBV-B has evolved strategies to circumvent host innate defenses similar to those of HCV, a property that may contribute to HCV persistence in vivo. We show here in cultured tamarin hepatocytes that GBV-B NS3/4A protease, but not a related catalytically inactive mutant, effectively blocks innate intracellular antiviral responses signaled through the RNA helicase, retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I), an essential sensor molecule that initiates host defenses against many RNA viruses, including HCV. GBV-B NS3/4A protease specifically cleaves mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS; also known as IPS-1/Cardif/VISA) and dislodges it from mitochondria, thereby disrupting its function as a RIG-I adaptor and blocking downstream activation of both interferon regulatory factor 3 and nuclear factor kappa B. MAVS cleavage and abrogation of virus-induced interferon responses were also observed in Huh7 cells supporting autonomous replication of subgenomic GBV-B RNAs. Our data indicate that, as in the case of HCV, GBV-B has evolved to utilize its major protease to disrupt RIG-I signaling and impede innate antiviral defenses. These data provide further support for the use of GBV-B infection in small primates as an accurate surrogate model for deciphering virus-host interactions in hepacivirus pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1797450  PMID: 17093192
23.  Activation of the unfolded protein response and autophagy after hepatitis C virus infection suppresses innate antiviral immunity in vitro 
Autophagy, a process for catabolizing cytoplasmic components, has been implicated in the modulation of interactions between RNA viruses and their host. However, the mechanism underlying the functional role of autophagy in the viral life cycle still remains unclear. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a single-stranded, positive-sense, membrane-enveloped RNA virus that can cause chronic liver disease. Here we report that HCV induces the unfolded protein response (UPR), which in turn activates the autophagic pathway to promote HCV RNA replication in human hepatoma cells. Further analysis revealed that the entire autophagic process through to complete autolysosome maturation was required to promote HCV RNA replication and that it did so by suppressing innate antiviral immunity. Gene silencing or activation of the UPR-autophagy pathway activated or repressed, respectively, IFN-β activation mediated by an HCV-derived pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP). Similar results were achieved with a PAMP derived from Dengue virus (DEV), indicating that HCV and DEV may both exploit the UPR-autophagy pathway to escape the innate immune response. Taken together, these results not only define the physiological significance of HCV-induced autophagy, but also shed light on the knowledge of host cellular responses upon HCV infection as well as on exploration of therapeutic targets for controlling HCV infection.
PMCID: PMC3007134  PMID: 21135505
24.  Targeted Induction of Interferon-λ in Humanized Chimeric Mouse Liver Abrogates Hepatotropic Virus Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59611.
Background & Aims
The interferon (IFN) system plays a critical role in innate antiviral response. We presume that targeted induction of IFN in human liver shows robust antiviral effects on hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV).
This study used chimeric mice harboring humanized livers and infected with HCV or HBV. This mouse model permitted simultaneous analysis of immune responses by human and mouse hepatocytes in the same liver and exploration of the mechanism of antiviral effect against these viruses. Targeted expression of IFN was induced by treating the animals with a complex comprising a hepatotropic cationic liposome and a synthetic double-stranded RNA analog, pIC (LIC-pIC). Viral replication, IFN gene expression, IFN protein production, and IFN antiviral activity were analyzed (for type I, II and III IFNs) in the livers and sera of these humanized chimeric mice.
Following treatment with LIC-pIC, the humanized livers of chimeric mice exhibited increased expression (at the mRNA and protein level) of human IFN-λs, resulting in strong antiviral effect on HBV and HCV. Similar increases were not seen for human IFN-α or IFN-β in these animals. Strong induction of IFN-λs by LIC-pIC occurred only in human hepatocytes, and not in mouse hepatocytes nor in human cell lines derived from other (non-hepatic) tissues. LIC-pIC-induced IFN-λ production was mediated by the immune sensor adaptor molecules mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS) and Toll/IL-1R domain-containing adaptor molecule-1 (TICAM-1), suggesting dual recognition of LIC-pIC by both sensor adaptor pathways.
These findings demonstrate that the expression and function of various IFNs differ depending on the animal species and tissues under investigation. Chimeric mice harboring humanized livers demonstrate that IFN-λs play an important role in the defense against human hepatic virus infection.
PMCID: PMC3610702  PMID: 23555725
25.  The Critical Role of Notch Ligand Delta-like 1 in the Pathogenesis of Influenza A Virus (H1N1) Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(11):e1002341.
Influenza A viral infections have been identified as the etiologic agents for historic pandemics, and contribute to the annual mortality associated with acute viral pneumonia. While both innate and acquired immunity are important in combating influenza virus infection, the mechanism connecting these arms of the immune system remains unknown. Recent data have indicated that the Notch system is an important bridge between antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and T cell communication circuits and plays a central role in driving the immune system to overcome disease. In the present study, we examine the role of Notch signaling during influenza H1N1 virus infection, focusing on APCs. We demonstrate here that macrophages, but not dendritic cells (DCs), increased Notch ligand Delta-like 1 (Dll1) expression following influenza virus challenge. Dll1 expression on macrophages was dependent on retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I) induced type-I IFN pathway, and not on the TLR3-TRIF pathway. We also found that IFNα-Receptor knockout mice failed to induce Dll1 expression on lung macrophages and had enhanced mortality during influenza virus infection. Our results further showed that specific neutralization of Dll1 during influenza virus challenge induced higher mortality, impaired viral clearance, and decreased levels of IFN-γ. In addition, we blocked Notch signaling by using γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI), a Notch signaling inhibitor. Intranasal administration of GSI during influenza infection also led to higher mortality, and higher virus load with excessive inflammation and an impaired production of IFN-γ in lungs. Moreover, Dll1 expression on macrophages specifically regulates IFN-γ levels from CD4+and CD8+T cells, which are important for anti-viral immunity. Together, the results of this study show that Dll1 positively influences the development of anti-viral immunity, and may provide mechanistic approaches for modifying and controlling the immune response against influenza H1N1 virus infection.
Author Summary
Influenza viruses cause annual epidemics and occasional pandemics that have claimed the lives of millions. Both innate and acquired immunity are essential for protection against influenza virus, and Notch and Notch ligands provide a key bridge between innate and acquired immunity. However, the role of Notch system during influenza virus infection is unknown. Here, we show that Notch ligand Delta-like 1 (Dll1) expression was up-regulated in influenza virus H1N1 challenged macrophages, and was dependent on both retinoic-acid–inducible protein I (RIG-I) and IFNα receptor (IFNαR)-mediated pathways. IFNαR-deficient mice challenged with influenza virus in vivo also display a profoundly impaired Dll1 expression with increased mortality and abrogated IFN-γ production. Treatment of WT mice during influenza infection, with either neutralizing antibodies specific for Dll1 or a γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI), which blocks Notch signaling, resulted in increased mortality, impaired viral clearance, and lower IFN-γ production. In addition, Dll1 specifically regulated IFN-γ production from both CD4+and CD8+T cells in vitro. Together, these results suggest that Notch signaling through macrophage-dependent Dll1 is critical in providing an anti-viral response during influenza infection by linking innate and acquired immunity.
PMCID: PMC3207886  PMID: 22072963

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