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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.  Canine Hepacivirus NS3 Serine Protease Can Cleave the Human Adaptor Proteins MAVS and TRIF 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42481.
Canine hepacivirus (CHV) was recently identified in domestic dogs and horses. The finding that CHV is genetically the virus most closely related to hepatitis C virus (HCV) has raised the question of whether HCV might have evolved as the result of close contact between dogs and/or horses and humans. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the NS3/4A serine protease of CHV specifically cleaves human mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS) and Toll-IL-1 receptor domain-containing adaptor inducing interferon-beta (TRIF). The proteolytic activity of CHV NS3/4A was evaluated using a bacteriophage lambda genetic screen. Human MAVS- and TRIF-specific cleavage sites were engineered into the lambda cI repressor. Upon infection of Escherichia coli cells coexpressing these repressors and a CHV NS3/4A construct, lambda phage replicated up to 2000-fold more efficiently than in cells expressing a CHV protease variant carrying the inactivating substitution S139A. Comparable results were obtained when several HCV NS3/4A constructs of genotype 1b were assayed. This indicates that CHV can disrupt the human innate antiviral defense signaling pathway and suggests a possible evolutionary relationship between CHV and HCV.
PMCID: PMC3411667  PMID: 22870331
4.  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
5.  The Coxsackievirus B 3Cpro Protease Cleaves MAVS and TRIF to Attenuate Host Type I Interferon and Apoptotic Signaling 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(3):e1001311.
The host innate immune response to viral infections often involves the activation of parallel pattern recognition receptor (PRR) pathways that converge on the induction of type I interferons (IFNs). Several viruses have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to attenuate antiviral host signaling by directly interfering with the activation and/or downstream signaling events associated with PRR signal propagation. Here we show that the 3Cpro cysteine protease of coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3) cleaves the innate immune adaptor molecules mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS) and Toll/IL-1 receptor domain-containing adaptor inducing interferon-beta (TRIF) as a mechanism to escape host immunity. We found that MAVS and TRIF were cleaved in CVB3-infected cells in culture. CVB3-induced cleavage of MAVS and TRIF required the cysteine protease activity of 3Cpro, occurred at specific sites and within specialized domains of each molecule, and inhibited both the type I IFN and apoptotic signaling downstream of these adaptors. 3Cpro-mediated MAVS cleavage occurred within its proline-rich region, led to its relocalization from the mitochondrial membrane, and ablated its downstream signaling. We further show that 3Cpro cleaves both the N- and C-terminal domains of TRIF and localizes with TRIF to signalosome complexes within the cytoplasm. Taken together, these data show that CVB3 has evolved a mechanism to suppress host antiviral signal propagation by directly cleaving two key adaptor molecules associated with innate immune recognition.
Author Summary
Mammalian cells utilize a variety of defenses to protect themselves from microbial pathogens. These defenses are initiated by families of receptors termed pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) and converge on the induction of molecules that function to suppress microbial infections. PRRs respond to essential components of microorganisms that are broadly expressed within classes of pathogens. The relative non-specificity of this detection thus allows for a rapid antimicrobial response to a variety of microorganisms. Coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3), a member of the enterovirus genus, is associated with a number of diverse syndromes including meningitis, febrile illness, diabetes, and is commonly associated with virus-induced heart disease in adults and children. Despite its significant impact on human health, there are no therapeutic interventions to treat CVB3 infections. Here we show that CVB3 has evolved an effective mechanism to suppress PRR signal propagation by utilizing a virally-encoded protein, termed 3Cpro, to directly degrade molecules that function downstream of PRR signaling. By targeting these molecules, CVB3 can evade host detection and escape antiviral defenses normally induced by mammalian cells. These findings will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms employed by CVB3 to suppress host antiviral signaling and could lead to the development of therapeutic interventions aimed at modulating CVB3 pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3059221  PMID: 21436888
6.  Mitochondrial Antiviral Signaling Protein Plays a Major Role in Induction of the Fish Innate Immune Response against RNA and DNA Viruses▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(16):7815-7827.
Viral infection triggers host innate immune responses through cellular sensor molecules which activate multiple signaling cascades that induce the production of interferons (IFN) and other cytokines. The recent identification of mammalian cytoplasmic viral RNA sensors, such as retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I)-like receptors (RLRs) and their mitochondrial adaptor, the mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS), also called IPS-1, VISA, and Cardif, highlights the significance of these molecules in the induction of IFN. Teleost fish also possess a strong IFN system, but nothing is known concerning the RLRs and their downstream adaptor. In this study, we cloned MAVS cDNAs from several fish species (including salmon and zebrafish) and showed that they were orthologs of mammalian MAVS. We demonstrated that overexpression of these mitochondrial proteins in fish cells led to a constitutive induction of IFN and IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). MAVS-overexpressing cells were almost fully protected against RNA virus infection, with a strong inhibition of both DNA and RNA virus replication (1,000- and 10,000-fold decreases, respectively). Analyses of MAVS deletion mutants showed that both the N-terminal CARD-like and C-terminal transmembrane domains, but not the central proline-rich region, were indispensable for MAVS signaling function. In addition, we cloned the cDNAs encoding a RIG-I-like molecule from salmonid and cyprinid cell lines. Like the case with MAVS, overexpression of RIG-I CARDs in fish cells led to a strong induction of both IFN and ISGs, conferring on fish cells full protection against RNA virus infection. This report provides the first demonstration that teleost fish possess a functional RLR pathway in which MAVS may play a central role in the induction of the innate immune response.
PMCID: PMC2715792  PMID: 19474100
7.  Mitochondria and antiviral innate immunity 
Mitochondria, dynamic organelles that undergo continuous cycles of fusion and fission, are the powerhouses of eukaryotic cells. Recent research indicates that mitochondria also act as platforms for antiviral immunity in vertebrates. Mitochondrial-mediated antiviral immunity depends on activation of the retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I)-like receptors signal transduction pathway and the participation of the mitochondrial outer membrane adaptor protein “mitochondrial antiviral signaling (MAVS)”. Here we discuss recent findings that suggest how mitochondria contribute to antiviral innate immunity.
PMCID: PMC3193288  PMID: 22003438
Mitochondrion; antiviral innate immunity; MAVS; RLRs pathway; signal transduction; mitochondrial dynamics
8.  Foreign RNA Induces the Degradation of Mitochondrial Antiviral Signaling Protein (MAVS): The Role of Intracellular Antiviral Factors 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45136.
Mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS) is an essential adaptor molecule that is responsible for antiviral signaling triggered by retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I)-like receptors (RLRs), leading to the induction of type I interferon in innate immunity. Previous studies have shown that certain viruses evade the innate immune response by cleaving the MAVS protein. However, little is known about how MAVS is regulated in response to foreign RNA, including both single-stranded (ss) and double-stranded (ds) RNA, because most previous reports have shown that the cleavage of MAVS is executed by proteases that are induced or activated by the invading RNA viruses. Here, we report that MAVS mRNA is degraded in response to polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (polyI:C), a synthetic dsRNA, in A549 cells. RNA interference (RNAi) experiments revealed that both ssRNA- and dsRNA-associated pattern-recognition receptors (PRRs) were not involved in the degradation of MAVS mRNA. Foreign RNA also induced the transient degradation of the MAVS protein. In the resting state, the MAVS protein was protected from degradation by interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3); moreover, the dimerization of IRF3 appeared to be correlated with the rescue of protein degradation in response to polyI:C. The overexpression of MAVS enhanced interferon-β (IFN-β) expression in response to polyI:C, suggesting that the degradation of MAVS contributes to the suppression of the hyper-immune reaction in late-phase antiviral signaling. Taken together, these results suggest that the comprehensive regulation of MAVS in response to foreign RNA may be essential to antiviral host defenses.
PMCID: PMC3444469  PMID: 23028806
9.  Control of Innate Immune Signaling and Membrane Targeting by the Hepatitis C Virus NS3/4A Protease Are Governed by the NS3 Helix α0 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(6):3112-3120.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is sensed in the host cell by the cytosolic pathogen recognition receptor RIG-I. RIG-I signaling is propagated through its signaling adaptor protein MAVS to drive activation of innate immunity. However, HCV blocks RIG-I signaling through viral NS3/4A protease cleavage of MAVS on the mitochondrion-associated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane (MAM). The multifunctional HCV NS3/4A serine protease is associated with intracellular membranes, including the MAM, through membrane-targeting domains within NS4A and also at the amphipathic helix α0 of NS3. The serine protease domain of NS3 is required for both cleavage of MAVS, a tail-anchored membrane protein, and processing the HCV polyprotein. Here, we show that hydrophobic amino acids in the NS3 helix α0 are required for selective cleavage of membrane-anchored portions of the HCV polyprotein and for cleavage of MAVS for control of RIG-I pathway signaling of innate immunity. Further, we found that the hydrophobic composition of NS3 helix α0 is essential to establish HCV replication and infection. Alanine substitution of individual hydrophobic amino acids in the NS3 helix α0 impaired HCV RNA replication in cells with a functional RIG-I pathway, but viral RNA replication was rescued in cells lacking RIG-I signaling. Therefore, the hydrophobic amphipathic helix α0 of NS3 is required for NS3/4A control of RIG-I signaling and HCV replication by directing the membrane targeting of both viral and cellular substrates.
PMCID: PMC3302330  PMID: 22238314
10.  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
11.  UBXN1 Interferes with Rig-I-like Receptor-Mediated Antiviral Immune Response by Targeting MAVS 
Cell reports  2013;3(4):10.1016/j.celrep.2013.02.027.
RNA viruses are sensed by RIG-I-like receptors (RLRs), which signal through a mitochondria-associated adaptor molecule, MAVS, resulting in systemic antiviral immune responses. Although RLR signaling is essential for limiting RNA virus replication, it must be stringently controlled to prevent damage from inflammation. We demonstrate here that among all tested UBX-domain-containing protein family members, UBXN1 exhibits the strongest inhibitory effect on RNA-virus-induced type I interferon response. UBXN1 potently inhibits RLR- and MAVS-induced, but not TLR3-, TLR4-, or DNA-virus-induced innate immune responses. Depletion of UBXN1 enhances virus-induced innate immune responses, including those resulting from RNA viruses such as vesicular stomatitis, Sendai, West Nile, and dengue virus infection, repressing viral replication. Following viral infection, UBXN1 is induced, binds to MAVS, interferes with intracellular MAVS oligomerization, and disrupts the MAVS/TRAF3/TRAF6 signalosome. These findings underscore a critical role of UBXN1 in the modulation of a major antiviral signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3707122  PMID: 23545497
12.  Regulation of Toll-like receptor signaling by NDP52-mediated selective autophagy is normally inactivated by A20 
Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling is linked to autophagy that facilitates elimination of intracellular pathogens. However, it is largely unknown whether autophagy controls TLR signaling. Here, we report that poly(I:C) stimulation induces selective autophagic degradation of the TLR adaptor molecule TRIF and the signaling molecule TRAF6, which is revealed by gene silencing of the ubiquitin-editing enzyme A20. This type of autophagy induced formation of autophagosomes and could be suppressed by an autophagy inhibitor and lysosomal inhibitors. However, this autophagy was not associated with canonical autophagic processes, including involvement of Beclin-1 and conversion of LC3-I to LC3-II. Through screening of TRIF-interacting ‘autophagy receptors’ in human cells, we identified that NDP52 mediated the selective autophagic degradation of TRIF and TRAF6 but not TRAF3. NDP52 was polyubiquitinated by TRAF6 and was involved in aggregation of TRAF6, which may result in the selective degradation. Intriguingly, only under the condition of A20 silencing, NDP52 could effectively suppress poly(I:C)-induced proinflammatory gene expression. Thus, this study clarifies a selective autophagic mechanism mediated by NDP52 that works downstream of TRIF–TRAF6. Furthermore, although A20 is known as a signaling fine-tuner to prevent excess TLR signaling, it paradoxically downregulates the fine-tuning effect of NDP52 on TLR signaling.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00018-011-0819-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3285758  PMID: 21964925
Autophagy; A20; NDP52; Signal transduction; Toll-like receptor (TLR)
13.  MAVS Self-Association Mediates Antiviral Innate Immune Signaling ▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(8):3420-3428.
The innate immune system recognizes nucleic acids during viral infection and stimulates cellular antiviral responses. Intracellular detection of RNA virus infection is mediated by the RNA helicases RIG-I (retinoic acid inducible gene I) and MDA-5, which recognize viral RNA and signal through the adaptor molecule MAVS (mitochondrial antiviral signaling) to stimulate the phosphorylation and activation of the transcription factors IRF3 (interferon regulatory factor 3) and IRF7. Once activated, IRF3 and IRF7 turn on the expression of type I interferons, such as beta interferon. Interestingly, unlike other signaling molecules identified in this pathway, MAVS contains a C-terminal transmembrane (TM) domain that is essential for both type I interferon induction and localization of MAVS to the mitochondrial outer membrane. However, the role the MAVS TM domain plays in signaling remains unclear. Here we report the identification of a function for the TM domain in mediating MAVS self-association. The activation of RIG-I/MDA-5 leads to the TM-dependent dimerization of the MAVS N-terminal caspase recruitment domain, thereby providing an interface for direct binding to and activation of the downstream effector TRAF3 (tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 3). Our results reveal a role for MAVS self-association in antiviral innate immunity signaling and provide a molecular mechanism for downstream signal transduction.
PMCID: PMC2663242  PMID: 19193783
14.  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
15.  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
16.  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
17.  Activation of innate immune antiviral response by NOD2 
Nature immunology  2009;10(10):1073-1080.
Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) including Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and RIG like helicase (RLH) receptors are involved in innate immune antiviral responses. Here we show that nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain 2 (NOD2) can also function as a cytoplasmic viral PRR by triggering activation of interferon regulatory factor-3 (IRF3) and production of interferon-β (IFN). Following recognition of viral ssRNA genome, NOD2 utilized the adaptor protein MAVS (mitochondrial antiviral signaling) to activate IRF3. NOD2-deficient mice failed to produce IFN efficiently and exhibited enhanced susceptibility to virus-induced pathogenesis. Thus, the function of NOD2 as a viral PRR highlights the important role of NOD2 in host antiviral defense mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2752345  PMID: 19701189
18.  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
19.  MyD88 Dependent Signaling Contributes to Protective Host Defense against Burkholderia pseudomallei 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3494.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have a central role in the recognition of pathogens and the initiation of the innate immune response. Myeloid differentiation primary-response gene 88 (MyD88) and TIR-domain-containing adaptor protein inducing IFNβ (TRIF) are regarded as the key signaling adaptor proteins for TLRs. Melioidosis, which is endemic in SE-Asia, is a severe infection caused by the gram-negative bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. We here aimed to characterize the role of MyD88 and TRIF in host defense against melioidosis.
Methodology and Principal Findings
First, we found that MyD88, but not TRIF, deficient whole blood leukocytes released less TNFα upon stimulation with B. pseudomallei compared to wild-type (WT) cells. Thereafter we inoculated MyD88 knock-out (KO), TRIF mutant and WT mice intranasally with B. pseudomallei and found that MyD88 KO, but not TRIF mutant mice demonstrated a strongly accelerated lethality, which was accompanied by significantly increased bacterial loads in lungs, liver and blood, and grossly enhanced liver damage compared to WT mice. The decreased bacterial clearance capacity of MyD88 KO mice was accompanied by a markedly reduced early pulmonary neutrophil recruitment and a diminished activation of neutrophils after infection with B. pseudomallei. MyD88 KO leukocytes displayed an unaltered capacity to phagocytose and kill B. pseudomallei in vitro.
MyD88 dependent signaling, but not TRIF dependent signaling, contributes to a protective host response against B. pseudomallei at least in part by causing early neutrophil recruitment towards the primary site of infection.
PMCID: PMC2566818  PMID: 18946505
20.  Functional Characterization of Domains of IPS-1 Using an Inducible Oligomerization System 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53578.
The innate immune system recognizes viral nucleic acids and stimulates cellular antiviral responses. Intracellular detection of viral RNA is mediated by the Retinoic acid inducible gene (RIG)-I Like Receptor (RLR), leading to production of type I interferon (IFN) and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Once cells are infected with a virus, RIG-I and MDA5 bind to viral RNA and undergo conformational change to transmit a signal through direct interaction with downstream CARD-containing adaptor protein, IFN-β promoter stimulator-1 (IPS-1, also referred as MAVS/VISA/Cardif). IPS-1 is composed of N-terminal Caspase Activation and Recruitment Domain (CARD), proline-rich domain, intermediate domain, and C-terminal transmembrane (TM) domain. The TM domain of IPS-1 anchors it to the mitochondrial outer membrane. It has been hypothesized that activated RLR triggers the accumulation of IPS-1, which forms oligomer as a scaffold for downstream signal proteins. However, the exact mechanisms of IPS-1-mediated signaling remain controversial. In this study, to reveal the details of IPS-1 signaling, we used an artificial oligomerization system to induce oligomerization of IPS-1 in cells. Artificial oligomerization of IPS-1 activated antiviral signaling without a viral infection. Using this system, we investigated the domain-requirement of IPS-1 for its signaling. We discovered that artificial oligomerization of IPS-1 could overcome the requirement of CARD and the TM domain. Moreover, from deletion- and point-mutant analyses, the C-terminal Tumor necrosis factor Receptor-Associated Factor (TRAF) binding motif of IPS-1 (aa. 453–460) present in the intermediate domain is critical for downstream signal transduction. Our results suggest that IPS-1 oligomerization is essential for the formation of a multiprotein signaling complex and enables downstream activation of transcription factors, Interferon Regulatory Factor 3 (IRF3) and Nuclear Factor-κB (NF-κB), leading to type I IFN and pro-inflammatory cytokine production.
PMCID: PMC3538592  PMID: 23308256
21.  Activation of Duck RIG-I by TRIM25 Is Independent of Anchored Ubiquitin 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86968.
Retinoic acid inducible gene I (RIG-I) is a viral RNA sensor crucial in defense against several viruses including measles, influenza A and hepatitis C. RIG-I activates type-I interferon signalling through the adaptor for mitochondrial antiviral signaling (MAVS). The E3 ubiquitin ligase, tripartite motif containing protein 25 (TRIM25), activates human RIG-I through generation of anchored K63-linked polyubiquitin chains attached to lysine 172, or alternatively, through the generation of unanchored K63-linked polyubiquitin chains that interact non-covalently with RIG-I CARD domains. Previously, we identified RIG-I of ducks, of interest because ducks are the host and natural reservoir of influenza viruses, and showed it initiates innate immune signaling leading to production of interferon-beta (IFN-β). We noted that K172 is not conserved in RIG-I of ducks and other avian species, or mouse. Because K172 is important for both mechanisms of activation of human RIG-I, we investigated whether duck RIG-I was activated by TRIM25, and if other residues were the sites for attachment of ubiquitin. Here we show duck RIG-I CARD domains are ubiquitinated for activation, and ubiquitination depends on interaction with TRIM25, as a splice variant that cannot interact with TRIM25 is not ubiquitinated, and cannot be activated. We expressed GST-fusion proteins of duck CARD domains and characterized TRIM25 modifications of CARD domains by mass spectrometry. We identified two sites that are ubiquitinated in duck CARD domains, K167 and K193, and detected K63 linked polyubiquitin chains. Site directed mutagenesis of each site alone, does not alter the ubiquitination profile of the duck CARD domains. However, mutation of both sites resulted in loss of all attached ubiquitin and polyubiquitin chains. Remarkably, the double mutant duck RIG-I CARD still interacts with TRIM25, and can still be activated. Our results demonstrate that anchored ubiquitin chains are not necessary for TRIM25 activation of duck RIG-I.
PMCID: PMC3900705  PMID: 24466302
22.  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
23.  Interferon-beta is activated by hepatitis C virus NS5B and inhibited by NS4A, NS4B, and NS5A 
Hepatology International  2007;1(2):302-310.
Innate immunity is part of the antiviral response. Interferon (IFN)-beta plays a leading role in this system. To investigate the influence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) on innate immunity, we examined the effect of viral proteins on IFN-beta induction. HepG2 cells were co-transfected with plasmids for seven HCV proteins (core protein, NS2, NS3, NS4A, NS4B, NS5A, and NS5B) and the IFN-beta promoter luciferase. Toll-like receptor (TLR) 3 and Toll/IL-1 receptor domain-containing adapter inducing IFN-beta (TRIF) play key roles in dsRNA-mediated activation of interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-3 and IFN-beta; therefore, the participation of TLR3/TRIF in NS5B-mediated IFN induction was examined. Among seven HCV proteins, only NS5B, a viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), activated the IFN-beta promoter. However, mutant NS5B without RdRp activity or template/primer association did not activate the IFN-beta promoter. Activation of the IFN-beta promoter by NS5B required the positive regulatory domain III, a binding sequence for IRF-3. Moreover, IRF-3 was phosphorylated by NS5B. Both inhibition of TLR3 expression by small interfering RNA and expression of the dominant negative form of TRIF significantly reduced NS5B-induced activation of IFN-beta. Of the six other HCV proteins, NS4A, NS4B, and NS5A efficiently inhibited this activation. HCV NS5B is a potent activator of the host innate immune system, possibly through TLR3/TRIF and synthesis of dsRNA. Meanwhile, NS4A, NS4B, and NS5A block IFN-beta induction by NS5B, which may contribute toward the persistence of this virus.
PMCID: PMC2716828  PMID: 19669354
HCV; Persistent infection; Innate immunity; Toll-like receptor; Toll/IL-1 receptor domain-containing adapter inducing IFN-beta
24.  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
25.  Crystal structure of human IPS-1/MAVS/VISA/Cardif caspase activation recruitment domain 
IPS-1/MAVS/VISA/Cardif is an adaptor protein that plays a crucial role in the induction of interferons in response to viral infection. In the initial stage of the intracellular antiviral response two RNA helicases, retinoic acid inducible gene-I (RIG-I) and melanoma differentiation-association gene 5 (MDA5), are independently able to bind viral RNA in the cytoplasm. The 62 kDa protein IPS-1/MAVS/VISA/Cardif contains an N-terminal caspase activation and recruitment (CARD) domain that associates with the CARD regions of RIG-I and MDA5, ultimately leading to the induction of type I interferons. As a first step towards understanding the molecular basis of this important adaptor protein we have undertaken structural studies of the IPS-1 MAVS/VISA/Cardif CARD region.
The crystal structure of human IPS-1/MAVS/VISA/Cardif CARD has been determined to 2.1Å resolution. The protein was expressed and crystallized as a maltose-binding protein (MBP) fusion protein. The MBP and IPS-1 components each form a distinct domain within the structure. IPS-1/MAVS/VISA/Cardif CARD adopts a characteristic six-helix bundle with a Greek-key topology and, in common with a number of other known CARD structures, contains two major polar surfaces on opposite sides of the molecule. One face has a surface-exposed, disordered tryptophan residue that may explain the poor solubility of untagged expression constructs.
The IPS-1/MAVS/VISA/Cardif CARD domain adopts the classic CARD fold with an asymmetric surface charge distribution that is typical of CARD domains involved in homotypic protein-protein interactions. The location of the two polar areas on IPS-1/MAVS/VISA/Cardif CARD suggest possible types of associations that this domain makes with the two CARD domains of MDA5 or RIG-I. The N-terminal CARD domains of RIG-I and MDA5 share greatest sequence similarity with IPS-1/MAVS/VISA/Cardif CARD and this has allowed modelling of their structures. These models show a very different charge profile for the equivalent surfaces compared to IPS-1/MAVS/VISA/Cardif CARD.
PMCID: PMC2291057  PMID: 18307765

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