Hepatitis C Virus Infection Is Inhibited by a Noncanonical Antiviral Signaling Pathway Targeted by NS3-NS4A.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS3-NS4A protease complex is required for viral replication and is the major viral innate immune evasion factor. NS3-NS4A evades antiviral innate immunity by inactivating several proteins, including MAVS, the signaling adaptor for RIG-I and MDA5, and Riplet, an E3 ubiquitin ligase that activates RIG-I. Here, we identified a Tyr-16-Phe (Y16F) change in the NS4A transmembrane domain that prevents NS3-NS4A targeting of Riplet but not MAVS. This Y16F substitution reduces HCV replication in Huh7 cells, but not in Huh-7.5 cells, known to lack RIG-I signaling. Surprisingly, deletion of RIG-I in Huh7 cells did not restore Y16F viral replication. Rather, we found that Huh-7.5 cells lack Riplet expression and that the addition of Riplet to these cells reduced HCV Y16F replication, whereas the addition of Riplet lacking the RING domain restored HCV Y16F replication. In addition, TBK1 inhibition or IRF3 deletion in Huh7 cells was sufficient to restore HCV Y16F replication, and the Y16F protease lacked the ability to prevent IRF3 activation or interferon induction. Taken together, these data reveal that the NS4A Y16 residue regulates a noncanonical Riplet-TBK1-IRF3-dependent, but RIG-I-MAVS-independent, signaling pathway that limits HCV infection.IMPORTANCE The HCV NS3-NS4A protease complex facilitates viral replication by cleaving and inactivating the antiviral innate immune signaling proteins MAVS and Riplet, which are essential for RIG-I activation. NS3-NS4A therefore prevents IRF3 activation and interferon induction during HCV infection. Here, we uncover an amino acid residue within the NS4A transmembrane domain that is essential for inactivation of Riplet but does not affect MAVS cleavage by NS3-NS4A. Our study reveals that Riplet is involved in a RIG-I- and MAVS-independent signaling pathway that activates IRF3 and that this pathway is normally inactivated by NS3-NS4A during HCV infection. Our study selectively uncouples these distinct regulatory mechanisms within NS3-NS4A and defines a new role for Riplet in the antiviral response to HCV. Since Riplet is known to be inhibited by other RNA viruses, such as such influenza A virus, this innate immune signaling pathway may also be important in controlling other RNA virus infections.
Vazquez, C; Tan, CY; Horner, SM
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