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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References
  8. Supporting Information

Interferons (IFNs) and the interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) play a central role in antiviral responses against hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. We have reported previously that ISGs, including guanylate binding protein 1 (GBP-1), interferon alpha inducible protein (IFI)-6-16, and IFI-27, inhibit HCV subgenomic replication. In this study we investigated the effects of these ISGs against HCV in cell culture and their direct molecular interaction with viral proteins. HCV replication and virus production were suppressed significantly by overexpression of GBP-1, IFI-6-16, or IFI-27. Knockdown of the individual ISGs enhanced HCV RNA replication markedly. A two-hybrid panel of molecular interaction of the ISGs with HCV proteins showed that GBP-1 bound HCV-NS5B directly. A protein truncation assay showed that the guanine binding domain of GBP-1 and the finger domain of NS5B were involved in the interaction. Binding of NS5B with GBP-1 inhibited its guanosine triphosphatase GTPase activity, which is essential for its antiviral effect. Taken together, interferon-induced GBP-1 showed antiviral activity against HCV replication. Conclusion: Binding of the HCV-NS5B protein to GBP-1 countered the antiviral effect by inhibition of its GTPase activity. These mechanisms may contribute to resistance to innate, IFN-mediated antiviral defense and to the clinical persistence of HCV infection. (HEPATOLOGY 2009.)

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is one of the most important pathogens causing liver-related morbidity and mortality.1 Hepatitis C is characterized by persistent infection of the liver, leading to the development of chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Type-I interferon (IFN) plays a central role in eliminating viruses, not only by way of therapeutic applications2 but also as a natural cellular antiviral mechanism.3, 4 Interferons are produced naturally in response to virus infection and to cellular exposure to IFN itself. Binding of the IFNs to their receptors activates the Jak-STAT pathway to form a complex with IFN-stimulated gene factor-3 (ISGF3), which translocates to the nucleus, binds the IFN-stimulated response element (ISRE) located in the promoter/enhancer region of the IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs), and activates expression of ISGs.

HCV subgenomic replicons constitute in-vitro models that simulate cellular autonomous replication of HCV genomic RNA. Replication of the HCV replicon can be abolished by treatment with small amounts of type-I and type-II IFNs.5, 6 These findings suggest that various molecules encoded by the ISGs have antiviral activities against HCV replication. We have reported previously that the baseline activities of ISG expression are substantially decreased in cells expressing HCV replicon and that this decrease is partly attributable to the transcriptional suppression of interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF-1).7 We performed expressional screening of ISGs to investigate their antiviral effects against HCV replication and showed that guanylate binding protein 1 (GBP-1), interferon alpha inducible protein (IFI)-6-16, and IFI-27 had novel activities against cells harboring an HCV replicon.8 In this study we investigated the antiviral effects and molecular mechanism of GBP-1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-27 on HCV-JFH1-infected cells.

Materials and Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References
  8. Supporting Information

Cells and Cell Culture.

Huh7, Huh7.5.1, and 293T cells were maintained in Dulbecco's modified minimal essential medium (Sigma, St. Louis, MO) supplemented with 10% fetal calf serum at 37°C under 5% CO2. To maintain cell lines carrying the HCV replicon (Huh7/Rep-Feo cells), G418 (Nacalai Tesque, Kyoto, Japan) was added to the culture medium to a final concentration of 500 μg/mL.

HCV Replicon Constructs and Transfection.

The HCV replicon plasmids, which contain Rep-Feo, were derived from the HCV-N strain, pHC1bneo/delS (1b-Feo) and HCV-JFH1 strain, pSGR-JFH1 (2a-Feo).6, 9 These constructs express a chimeric reporter protein of firefly luciferase (Fluc) and neomycin phosphotransferase. The replicon RNA synthesis and transfection have been described (Huh7/Rep-1bFeo, Huh7/Rep-2aFeo).10, 11

HCV Cell Culture System.

A plasmid, pJFH1-full,12 which encodes the full-length HCV-JFH1 sequence, was linearized and used as a template for synthesis of HCV RNA using the RiboMax Large Scale RNA Production System (Promega, Madison, WI). After DNaseI (RQ-1, RNase-free DNase, Promega) treatment, the transcribed HCV RNA was purified using ISOGEN (Nippon Gene, Tokyo, Japan). For the RNA transfection, Huh-7.5.1 cells were washed twice, and 5 × 106 cells were suspended in Opti-MEM I (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA) containing 10 μg of HCV RNA, transferred into a 4-mm electroporation cuvette, and subjected to an electric pulse (1,050 μF and 270 V) using the Easy Ject system (EquiBio, Middlesex, UK). After electroporation, the cell suspension was left for 5 minutes at room temperature and then incubated under normal culture conditions in a 10-mm diameter cell culture dish. The transfected cells were split every 3 to 5 days. The culture supernatants were subsequently transferred onto uninfected Huh-7.5.1 cells.

Construction of Plasmids Expressing ISGs and Analysis of Their Effect on HCV Subgenomic and Genomic Replication.

We constructed plasmids expressing GBP-1, IFI-6-16, IFI-27, and IRF-1. The full-length human ISGs were amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from Huh7 cells and cloned into pcDNA3.1D/V5-His-TOPO (pcDNA4/TO/myc-his for IRF-1) (Invitrogen) to yield the mammalian expression construct, pcDNA-ISG. The ISG-expression plasmid, pcDNA-ISG, was transfected into Huh7/Rep-1bFeo or Huh7/2aFeo cells, and the replication level of the HCV replicon was analyzed by luciferase assay. A plasmid, pcDNA3.1D/V5-His/lacZ (Invitrogen), was used as a control plasmid vector for mock transfection.

Another plasmid, pcDNA-ISG, was transfected into HCV-JFH1 cell culture systems. Forty-eight hours after transfection the culture supernatants, total cellular RNA, and protein, which were used for quantification of HCV core antigen, were harvested.

Luciferase Assays.

Luciferase activity was measured with a Lumat LM9501 luminometer (Promega) using a Bright-Glo Luciferase Assay System (Promega) or a Dual-Luciferase Reporter Assay System (Promega).

Real-Time Reverse Transcription (RT)-PCR Analysis.

Total cellular RNA was isolated using ISOGEN (Nippon Gene). Two micrograms of total cellular RNA were used to generate complementary DNA (cDNA) from each sample using SuperScript II (Invitrogen) reverse transcriptase. Expression of messenger RNA (mRNA) was quantified using the TaqMan Universal PCR Master Mix and the ABI 7500 Real-Time PCR System (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA). The primers have been described.13

Quantification of HCV Core Antigen in Culture Supernatants.

Culture supernatants of JFH1-RNA transfected Huh-7.5.1 cells were collected on the days indicated, passed through a 0.45-μm filter (MILLEX-HA, Millipore, Bedford, MA), and stored at −80°C. The concentrations of core antigen in the culture supernatants were measured using a chemiluminescence enzyme immunoassay (CLEIA) according to the manufacturer's protocol (Lumipulse Ortho HCV Antigen, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Tokyo, Japan).

Synthetic Short Hairpin RNA (shRNA) and shRNA-Expression Plasmid.

ISG-directed shRNA expression vectors (pUC19-shRNA-ISG) were designed and constructed as described.11 Briefly, oligodeoxyribonucleotides encoding shRNA sequences were synthesized and cloned just downstream of the human U6 promoter in the plasmid pUC19. To avoid problems of structural instability of DNA strands arising from the tight palindrome structure during transcription of shRNA, several point mutations were introduced into the sense strand of the shRNA sequences, which retained fully the silencing activity of the shRNA.11 Sequences of the shRNAs are shown in Supporting Table 1.

Construction of Plasmids Expressing Full-Length and Truncated HCV-NS Proteins.

Expression plasmids of HCV-NS3, NS4B, NS5A, and NS5B were constructed by inserting PCR-amplified fragments encoding each HCV-NS protein into pcDNA4/TO/myc-his (pcDNA-NS3, pcDNA-NS4B, pcDNA-NS5A, and pcDNA-NS5B, respectively). The plasmids, which expressed truncated HCV-NS5B proteins, were generated by insertion of various fragments amplified by PCR using pcDNA-NS5B into pcDNA4/TO/myc-his.

Immunoprecipitation Assay.

Plasmids expressing HCV-NS protein (pcDNA-NS3, pcDNA-NS4B, pcDNA-NS5A, or pcDNA-NS5B) and plasmids expressing ISG (pcDNA-GBP-1, pcDNA-IFI-6-16, or pcDNA-IFI-27) were cotransfected into HEK-293 T cells. Forty-eight hours after transfection, cellular proteins were harvested and immunoprecipitation assay was performed using an Immunoprecipitation Kit according to the manufacturer's protocol (Roche Applied Science, Mannheim, Germany). The immunoprecipitated proteins were analyzed by western blotting.

Mammalian Two-Hybrid Assay.

Mammalian two-hybrid assay (Stratagene, La Jolla, CA) is a method for detecting protein-protein interactions in vivo in mammalian cells. In this assay a gene encoding the HCV-NS protein (NS3, NS4B, NS5A, and NS5B) was fused to the DNA-binding domain of the yeast protein GAL4 (a bait plasmid, pcCMV-BD), whereas another gene (ISG; GBP-1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-27) was fused to the transcriptional activation domain of the mouse protein nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB) (an acceptor plasmid, pCMV-AD). These two-hybrid constructs are cotransfected into Huh-7 cells with a reporter plasmid encoding the firefly-luciferase gene. If the ISG protein and HCV-NS protein interact, they create a functional transcriptional activator by bringing the activation domain into close proximity with the DNA-binding domain; this can be detected by expression of the luciferase reporter gene. The ISG-encoding site was inserted into a plasmid, pCMV-AD, by cloning from a plasmid, pcDNA-ISG (pCMV-AD-ISG). The HCV-NS protein gene, which was subcloned from a plasmid, pcDNA-NS protein, was also inserted into a plasmid, pCMV-BD (pCMV-BD-NS protein). The plasmids pCMV-AD-ISG and pCMV-BD-NS protein were cotransfected with a reporter plasmid, pFR-luc encoding Fluc into Huh-7 cells. Cellular proteins were harvested after 48 hours and luciferase assays were performed.

Immunohistochemistry.

Huh7.5.1 cells infected with HCV-JFH-1 were seeded onto 18-mm round micro-cover glasses (Matsunami, Tokyo, Japan). After transfection of plasmids expressing ISG, pcDNA-ISG, Huh7.5.1 cells were fixed with cold acetone. The cells were incubated with the primary antibodies for 1 hour at 37°C and with Alexa Flour 488 goat antimouse immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody and Alexa 568 donkey antigoat IgG antibody (Molecular Probes, Eugene, OR) for 1 hour at room temperature. Cells were mounted with VectaShield Mounting Medium and DAPI (Vector Laboratories, Burlingame, CA) and visualized with fluorescence microscopy (BZ-8000, Keyence, Osaka, Japan).

The Establishment of a Mutant Form of GBP-1.

In order to introduce mutations into GBP-1, the full-length human ISGs were amplified by PCR from a human liver cDNA library (Invitrogen) and cloned into pCMV-Tag Epitope Tagging Mammalian Expression Vectors; pCMV-GBP-1 (Stratagene). The following mutations were introduced into the DNA fragment in the subcloning vector by site-directed mutagenesis (Quick-Change II Site-Directed Mutagenesis Kit; Stratagene): R48P; pCMV-GBP1.R48P.

Guanosine Triphosphatase (GTPase) Assay.

Cellular proteins were harvested from Huh7 cells 48 hours after transfection of a plasmid expressing HCV-NS5B, pcDNA-NS5B, or a plasmid for mock transfection, pcDNA3. A GTPase assay was performed to examine GTPase activity of cellular proteins using GTPase ELIPA kits (Cytoskelton, Denver, CO). The assay is based on an absorbance shift (340 to 360 nm) that occurs when 2-amino-6-mercapto-7-methylpurine ribonucleoside is catalytically converted to 2-amino-6-mercapto-7-methyl purine in the presence of inorganic phosphate (Pi). The reaction is catalyzed by purine nucleoside phosphorylase. One molecule of inorganic phosphate will yield one molecule of 2-amino-6-mercapto-7-methyl in an essentially irreversible reaction. Thus, the absorbance at 360 nm is directly proportional to the amount of Pi generated in the reaction.

Transient Transfection.

Transient transfection was performed using Lipofectamine 2000 (Invitrogen) according to the manufacturer's protocol.

Luciferase Assays.

Luciferase activity was measured with a Lumat LM9501 luminometer (Promega) using a Bright-Glo Luciferase Assay System (Promega).

Western Blot Analysis.

Western blotting was performed as described.10 Briefly, 10 μg of total cell lysate was separated by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), and blotted onto a polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) membrane. The membrane was incubated with the primary antibodies followed by a peroxidase-labeled anti-IgG antibody and visualized by chemiluminescence using the ECL Western Blotting Analysis System (Amersham Biosciences, Buckinghamshire, UK).

Statistical Analyses.

Statistical analyses were performed using Student's t test; P values of less than 0.05 were considered statistically significant.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References
  8. Supporting Information

GBP1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-27 Suppress HCV Subgenomic Replicon and Virus Replication in Cell Culture.

First, we assessed the effects of GBP-1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-278 on replication of HCV genotype 1b and 2a replicons.9–11 Transfection of the expression plasmids for IRF-1, GBP-1, IFI6-16, and IFI-27 resulted in expression of corresponding proteins (Fig. 1A). Each ISG-expression plasmid was transfected into cells harboring HCV genotype 1b or 2a replicons that expressed Fluc and luciferase assays were performed. Expression of GBP-1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-27 resulted in significant reduction of HCV replication (1b-Feo: GBP-1; 63.7 ± 7.49%, IFI-6-16; 62.6 ± 19.2%, IFI-27; 71.6 ± 1.22%, IRF-1; 95.1 ± 0.19% / 2a-Feo: GBP-1; 61.9 ± 12.3%, IFI-6-16; 42.9 ± 7.0%, IFI-27; 42.9 ± 13.2%, IRF-1; 95.8 ± 1.0%) (Fig. 1B).

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Figure 1. Suppression of HCV infection and replication by overexpression of ISGs. (A) Western blotting analysis of cells transfected with the ISG-expression plasmids. ISG expression vectors were respectively transfected into HEK-293T cells. The cells were harvested at 48 hours after transfection. Ten micrograms of cell lysate were separated by SDS-PAGE and blotted onto a nylon membrane. The membrane was immunoblotted with anti-myc antibodies or anti-V5 antibodies. (B) The indicated ISG-expression plasmids were transfected into Huh7/Rep-1bFeo or Huh7/Rep-2aFeo cells. Luciferase activities were measured 48 hours after transfection. IRF-1 expression plasmid was used as a positive control.7 The values are displayed as percentages of luciferase activities relative to that of HCV replicon cells transfected pcDNA3.1D/V5-His/LacZ (control). Error bars indicate mean ± SD. *P < 0.05. (C) The indicated plasmids expressing ISG protein were transfected into Huh-7.5.1 cells infected with HCV-JFH1. The culture supernatant of HCV-JFH1 infected Huh-7.5.1 cells was collected 48 hours after transfection and the levels of HCV core antigen in the culture supernatant were measured. The values are displayed as percentage of core antigen relative to that of culture supernatant from infected Huh-7.5.1 cells transfected with pcDNA3.1D/V5-His/LacZ (control). Control plasmids (black bars), 2 μg (gray bars), or 4 μg (white bars) of indicated ISG-expression plasmids were transfected. Error bars indicate mean ± SD. *P < 0.05. (D) Total RNA and protein from HCV-JFH1-infected Huh-7.5.1 cells transfected with ISG-expression plasmids were extracted 48 hours after transfection. Total cellular RNA was quantified by real-time RT-PCR. The values are displayed as percentage of HCV RNA relative to that of infected Huh-7.5.1 cells transfected with pcDNA3.1D/V5-His/LacZ (control). Error bars indicate mean ± SD. *P < 0.05. (E) Western blotting analysis was performed to assess intracellular suppression of HCV replication. Ten micrograms of harvested cell lysates were subjected to western blotting using anti-HCV core antibodies. The values indicated percentage of densitometry of HCV core protein relative to protein of cells transfected with pcDNA3.1D/V5-His/LacZ (control).

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We next evaluated whether these ISGs affected the replication of HCV-JFH1 in cell culture. Each ISG-expression plasmid was transfected into HCV-JFH1-infected Huh-7.5.1 cells. The secretion of HCV particles was measured using an HCV core antigen assay. HCV core protein in the supernatant, as well as the cellular fraction, was significantly decreased by the overexpression of GBP-1 (24.3 ± 2.90%, 35.6 ± 6.73%), IFI-6-16 (33.9 ± 0.40%, 43.6 ± 1.14%), IFI-27 (38.5 ± 3.63%, 61.2 ± 1.28%), or IRF-1 (69.2 ± 1.89%, 78.3 ± 1.01%) in a dose-dependent manner (Fig. 1C). Real-time RT-PCR showed that the expression level of HCV RNA was significantly suppressed by plasmids expressing GBP-1 (38.2 ± 1.39%), IFI-6-16 (54.6 ± 2.93%) IFI-27 (50.7 ± 2.81%), and IRF-1 (6.61 ± 0.341%) (Fig. 1D). In Fig. 1E, levels of intracellular HCV core protein were decreased but less than those of HCV-RNA, which might be attributable to the longer half-life of HCV core protein than that of HCV-RNA. To visualize the suppressive effects of ISG on HCV in cell culture, we performed immunohistochemistry on the HCV-JFH1 cell culture system after transfection of the ISG plasmids using anti-HCV core antibodies and anti-ISG protein antibodies. As shown in Fig. 2, HCV core protein expression was markedly decreased in cells in which the ISG transgene was overexpressed. As a control, a LacZ expression plasmid was transfected into the same cells and HCV core protein expression did not decrease. Taken together, GBP-1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-27 showed direct antiviral effects on HCV genomic replication and also particle formation and secretion from cultured cells.

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Figure 2. Suppression of intracellular HCV replication levels by ISG-expression assessed by immunohistochemistry. The ISG-expression plasmid indicated or pcDNA3.1D/V5-His/LacZ as a control was transfected into HCV-JFH1-infected Huh-7.5.1 cells seeded in 18-mm-diameter dishes. At 48 hours after transfection, cells were incubated with anti-HCV core antibodies and anti-V5 antibodies (anti-myc antibodies for IRF-1) followed by Alexa Flour 488 goat antimouse IgG antibodies and Alexa 568 donkey antigoat IgG antibodies. Nuclei were stained with DAPI. Representative immunofluorescence images derived from a number of experiments are shown as three images of a single focal plane of Huh-7.5.1 cells, showing HCV core antigen (green), ISG (red), DAPI staining (blue), and the superimposed images (merge).

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The Effects of Knockdown of GBP-1, and IFI-6-16, and IFI-27 on the HCV-JFH Cell Culture System.

We subsequently investigated the effects of suppression of GBP-1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-27 expression on the HCV-JFH1 cell culture system. To conduct the study we used shRNA expression-plasmids, pUC19-shRNA-GBP-1, pUC19-shRNA-6-16, and pUC-shRNA-IFI-27, which expressed shRNA that targeted the corresponding genes. The shRNA-expressing plasmids were cotransfected with plasmids expressing the respective target genes into Huh7 cells. Western blotting showed that the expression levels of the target proteins were significantly suppressed by the respective shRNAs (Fig. 3A). Next, we transiently transfected shRNA-expression plasmids into HCV-JFH1-infected Huh-7.5.1 cells and performed HCV core antigen assays, real-time RT-PCR, and western blotting to measure HCV-RNA and the protein expression, respectively. Supernatant HCV core protein was significantly and dose-dependently increased by the overexpression of sh-GBP-1 (218.2 ± 88.7%), sh-IFI-6-16 (206.4 ± 74.5%), or sh-IFI27 (234.2 ± 46.3%) (Fig. 3B). In cells that were transfected with sh-GBP-1, sh-IFI-6-16, and sh-IFI27, expression of HCV and particle formation were significantly increased (161.1 ± 1.95% for shRNA-GBP-1, 155.7 ± 18.6% for shRNA-6-16, 114.6 ± 7.13% for shRNA-IFI-27; Fig. 3C). We also found by western blotting analysis that expression of HCV core protein was increased by the shRNA (Fig. 3D).

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Figure 3. The effects of shRNA-directed suppression of GBP-1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-27 expression on HCV replication. (A) The ISG-expression plasmids indicated, pcDNA-GBP-1 (upper panel), pcDNA-IFI-6-16 (middle panel), or pcDNA-IFI-27 (lower panel), were cotransfected with shRNA-expressing plasmid, pUC-shRNA-control (indicated with a minus on each panel), or pUC-shRNA-ISG (indicated with plus on each panel); pUC-shRNA-GBP-1, pUC-shRNA-IFI-6-16, pUC-shRNA-IFI-27 into Huh7 cells. Cells were harvested at 48 hours after transfection and western blotting was performed using anti-V5 antibodies. (B) The indicated plasmid expressing shRNA was transfected into Huh-7.5.1 cells infected with HCV-JFH1. Forty-eight hours after transfection the levels of HCV core antigen were measured in the culture supernatant. The values are shown as percentage of HCV core antigen in culture supernatant relative to transfection with control plasmid, pUC-shRNA-control. Control plasmid (black bars), 1 μg (gray bars), or 2 μg (white bars) of indicated shRNA-expression plasmids were transfected. Error bars indicate mean ± SD. *P < 0.05. (C) As in (B), transfection with an shRNA-expression plasmid was performed. At 48 hours after transfection total cellular RNA was extracted, followed by real-time RT-PCR. Error bars indicate mean ± SD. *P < 0.05. (D) Cell lysates were harvested and western blotting analysis was performed using anti-HCV core antibodies followed by antimouse IgG secondary antibodies. The values are displayed as the percentage of chemiluminescence relative that of transfection with the control plasmid, pUC-shRNA-control.

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Intermolecular Interaction of the Three ISGs and HCV Nonstructural Proteins.

It has been reported that HCV structural and nonstructural (NS) proteins interact with various host proteins. ISGs such as LMP7, PKR, and 2′,5′-oligoadenylate synthase (25OAS) also are known to interact with HCV NS proteins.14, 15 We performed immunoprecipitation assays to study the direct intermolecular interaction of HCV proteins and ISGs. Plasmids expressing individual HCV-NS proteins were cotransfected with the ISG-expression plasmids into HEK-293T cells. Cellular proteins were harvested 48 hours after transfection and subjected to immunoprecipitation assay. As shown in Fig. 4, we found that GBP-1 bound to HCV-NS5B. The molecular interactions between the NS proteins and ISGs were verified by the mammalian two-hybrid assay. We transfected fusion gene plasmids that express bait and each HCV NS protein together with, as targets, the three ISGs individually cotransfected into cells with reporter plasmids. Only GBP-1 and NS5B showed a significantly increased luciferase activity that was induced by bait-target interaction (Fig. 5). These results indicated a significant and specific molecular interaction between NS5B and GBP-1.

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Figure 4. Interaction of interferon inducible proteins with HCV-NS proteins by immunoprecipitation assay. (A-D) The plasmids indicated expressing myc-tagged HCV-NS protein, NS3 (A), NS4B (B), NS5A (C), or NS5B (D) were cotransfected into HEK-293T with V5-tagged ISG-expression plasmids for GBP-1 (lanes 2, 6, 10, 14), IFI-6-16 (lanes 3, 7, 11, 15), IFI-27 (lanes 4, 8, 12, 16), or mock vector (lanes 1, 5, 9, 13). Cell lysates were harvested at 48 hours after transfection and were immunoprecipitated using anti-myc antibodies. Immunoprecipitated proteins were detected by western blot analysis using anti-V5 antibodies. Asterisks indicate Ig heavy chain.

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Figure 5. The analysis of HCV-NS proteins binding ISG proteins by mammalian two-hybrid assay. Interaction of ISG proteins with HCV-NS proteins was confirmed by mammalian two-hybrid assay. The plasmids indicated, pCMV-BD-NS protein NS3 (A), NS4B (B), NS5A (C), or NS5B (D), were cotransfected with pCMV-AD-ISG and reporter plasmid, pFR-luc into Huh7 cells. Cells were harvested at 48 hours after transfection and luciferase activities were measured. The luciferase activities were displayed as relative to those in which empty plasmid, pCMV-AD, was transfected. Significantly higher luciferase activities suggest positive molecular interaction between the bait (BD) and the acceptor (AD) proteins. Values are displayed as means ± SD. *P < 0.05.

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The Analysis of the Domains of Interaction in HCV-NS5B and GBP-1.

Having shown a molecular interaction between GBP-1 and HCV-NS5B, we carried out protein truncation assays. To define interacting regions of GBP1 and NS5B, we constructed expression plasmids for the truncated proteins according to the reported functional domains, which were the GTPase and alpha-helical domains for GBP-1 and the finger, palm, and thumb domains for NS5B (Fig. 6A,B).16, 17 In Fig. 6C,D, plasmids expressing truncated proteins of NS5B or GBP-1 were transfected into HEK-293T cells. Cell lysates were used in western blotting to confirm expression of truncated proteins. These plasmids expressing truncated proteins were transfected into cells and monitored by the mammalian two-hybrid assay. After 48 hours of transfection, luciferase assays were performed to monitor molecular interaction. As shown in Fig. 6E, a significantly higher luciferase activity was obtained when the cells were transfected with full-length GBP-1 and a truncated NS5B that contained amino acids (aa) 1 though 70, which corresponded to the finger domain. Truncation of GBP-1 showed that the GTPase domain (aa 1 through 317) and full-length NS5B gave significantly higher luciferase activities (Fig. 6F). These results showed that the NS5B-finger domain and the GTPase domain of GBP-1 were the regions of mutual molecular interaction.

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Figure 6. Analyses of the domains responsible for the interaction between HCV-NS5B and GBP-1. (A) Scheme of full-length and truncated protein in HCV-NS5B. (B) Scheme of full-length and truncated protein in GBP-1. (C) Western blotting analysis of cells transfected with the indicated NS5B truncated protein-expression plasmids (pCMV-BD-NS5B.full, pCMV-BD-NS5Bt.1-70, pCMV-BD-NS5Bt.71-591, and pCMV-BD-NS5Bt.371-591). Expression vectors were respectively transfected into HEK-293T cells. The cells were harvested at 48 hours after transfection. Ten micrograms of cell lysate were separated by SDS-PAGE and blotted onto a nylon membrane. The membrane was immunoblotted with anti-GAL4BD antibodies. Asterisks indicate full-length or truncated NS5B proteins that were fused to the DNA-binding domain of the yeast protein GAL4. (D) Western blotting analysis of cells transfected with the indicated GBP-1 truncated protein-expression plasmids (pCMV-AD-GBP.full, pCMV-AD-GBP-1t.1-317, and pCMV-AD-GBP-1t.318-593). As in (C), transfection and western blotting were performed. Primer antibodies for immunoblotting were used anti-NFkappaB-p65. Asterisks indicate full-length or truncated GBP-1 proteins that were fused to the transcriptional activation domain of the mouse protein NF-κB. (E) Plasmids expressing HCV-NS5B full or HCV-NS5B truncated proteins were transfected into Huh7 cells with plasmid, pCMV-AD-GBP-1, and an Fluc-expression plasmid. The luciferase activities are displayed as relative to those in which empty plasmid, pCMV-AD, was transfected. Significantly higher luciferase activities suggest positive molecular interaction between the bait (BD) and the acceptor (AD) proteins. (F) Plasmids expressing truncated GBP-1 proteins were cotransfected with plasmid, pCMV-BD-NS5B, and a plasmid expressing Fluc into Huh7 cells. Luciferase activities were measured after 48 hours. Values are displayed as means ± SD. *P < 0.05.

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The GTPase Activity has a Direct Antiviral Effect on HCV.

To determine whether the GTPase activity of GBP1 was necessary for the antiviral action, we constructed a mutant GBP-1 expression plasmid in which an aa 48 P for R substitution was introduced in the catalyzing domain to abolish GTPase activity (Fig. 7A).18 As shown in Fig. 7B,C, the inactivated mutant GBP1 showed no antiviral activity. These results indicated that the GTPase activity is essential for the specific suppression of HCV replication.

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Figure 7. GTPase activity has an antiviral effect on HCV replication. Western blotting analysis of GBP-1 and GBP-1 mutant, R48P. Plasmids expressing GBP-1 mutant type, R48P, or GBP-1 wildtype were transfected into 293T cells. Cell lysates were harvested at 48 hours after transfection, followed by immunoblotting (A). The indicated plasmid was transfected into Huh-7.5.1 infected HCV-JFH1. Culture supernatants and cellular RNA were harvested at 48 hours after transfection. HCV core antigens were measured in culture supernatants (B) and HCV RNA was amplified by real-time RT-PCR (C). Values are displayed as means ± SD. *P < 0.05.

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HCV-NS5B Inhibits GTPase Activity and Results in Continuous Intracellular Replication of HCV.

There are several reports that HCV establishes stable infection and replication in cells by interacting with host proteins and affecting their antiviral, antiproliferative, and apoptotic activities.14, 19 Therefore, we determined whether binding of NS5B to GPB-1 affects protein expression levels or enzymatic functions. As shown in Fig. 8A, transfection of NS5B into cells significantly suppressed IFN-gamma-induced production of GBP-1 proteins. However, there were no significant differences in mRNA expression levels between cells with and without overexpression of NS5B (Fig. 8B). Expression of NS5B showed no significant effect on mRNA and protein expression levels of IFI-6-16 and IFI-27. These findings suggested that NS5B specifically suppresses GBP1 posttranslation. Next, we examined the effects of NS5B on the GTPase activity of GBP1 using a cell-free GTPase assay (Fig. 8C). Baseline cellular GTPase activity was increased by overexpression of GBP-1 or by addition of IFN-gamma. On the contrary, transfection of NS5B substantially suppressed GTPase activities of baseline and also IFN-treated cells.

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Figure 8. GTPase activity of GBP-1 was negatively regulated by HCV-NS5B. (A) A GBP-1-expression V5-tagged plasmid was cotransfected into Huh-7 cells with a plasmid expressing myc-tagged-HCV-NS5B and cell lysates were harvested. Cell lysates were immunoprecipitated by anti-myc antibodies. Immunoprecipitated proteins were separated on SDS-PAGE gels, followed by immunoblotting using anti-V5 antibodies. (B) After transfection, total cellular RNA was extracted and amplified by RT-PCR. (C) GTPase activity assays. GTPase activity in cell lysates was measured using a GTPase ELIPA Biochem Kit. The indicated graph is displayed as a time course of increase of OD in wavelength (360 nm) for GTPase from the baseline OD. (Graph a, IFN-gamma(+), GBP-1-overexpression and NS5B(−); graph b, IFN-gamma(+) and NS5B(−); graph c, IFN-gamma(−) and NS5B(−); graph d, IFN-gamma(+) and NS5B-overexpression(+); graph e, IFN-gamma(−) and NS5B-overexpression(+)). (D) Effects of HCV-NS5B on antiviral activities in GBP-1. The indicated plasmids expressing control (pcDNA3.1), NS5B truncated protein (NS5Bt.1-70) were cotransfected with GBP-1-expression plasmids into Huh7/Rep-1bFeo cells. Luciferase activities were measured 48 hours after transfection. The values are displayed as percentages of luciferase activities relative to that of HCV replicon cells transfected control. Error bars indicate mean ± SD. *P < 0.05.

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Finally, we investigated whether NS5B negatively regulate antiviral activity of GBP-1 on HCV. GBP-1-expression plasmid was transfected into HCV replicon cells, Huh7/Rep-1bFeo, together with or without expression plasmid of a truncated NS5B1-70, which lacked enzymatic activity but showed molecular interaction with GBP-1 (Fig. 6E). Luciferase assays showed that the suppressive effect of GBP-1 on HCV was abolished by overexpression of NS5B1-70 (Fig. 8D). These results suggest that NS5B may substantially rescue the inhibitory effect of GBP-1 on HCV replication.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References
  8. Supporting Information

Persistence of virus replication in host cells is governed by the cellular antiviral system and by the ability of the virus to evade antiviral responses.20 In this study we demonstrated previously undescribed antiviral activities of the three ISGs, GBP-1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-27, against HCV-JFH1 replication and release of virus particles (Figs. 1, 2). GBP-1 is a well-described GTPase.21 A mutation in the GTPase-catalyzing domain completely abolished antiviral activity against HCV (Fig. 7B,C), suggesting that GTPase activity is essential for antiviral action. Furthermore, we have shown specific binding of GBP-1 and HCV-NS5B, involving the GBP-1 guanine-binding domain and the NS5B finger domain (Fig. 6). Interestingly, overexpression of NS5B substantially suppressed the GTPase activity of host cellular GTPases, including GBP-1, and rescued the antiviral action of GBP-1 onto HCV (Fig. 8). Taken together, the interplay between the viral NS5B and host GBP-1 protein might be involved in the persistence of HCV infection and its resistance to IFN.

GBP-1 belongs to a group of GTPase families, including the p47 GBP family, the p65 GBP family, Mx, and very large inducible GTPase.22–25 The p65 GBP family has five members, GBP-1 to GBP-5.26–29 There is one report that GBP-1 mediates antiviral effects against vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) in HeLa cells.30 In our previous study, overexpression of GBP-1 significantly suppressed replication of an HCV subgenomic replicon and suppression of GBP-1 caused the HCV replication level to increase. In HCV-JFH1-infected cells we found that overexpression of GBP-1 significantly reduced the formation of HCV particles and the intracellular replication level of HCV RNA, and that shRNA-directed suppression of GBP-1 resulted in an increase of HCV particles and HCV RNA. These findings suggest that GBP-1 may suppress intracellular HCV replication directly and that the expression of GBP-1 in the absence of IFN treatment may result in inhibition of virus replication. However, little is known about the underlying antiviral mechanisms. Our previous study showed that GBP-1 had no effect on the translational activity of the HCV internal ribosome entry site (IRES) and intracellular signaling pathways such as ISRE, AP-1, GAS, and NF-κB.8

GBP-1 has functional homology with MxA, which shows GTPase activity and mediates degradation of cellular RNA, general repression of protein synthesis, and apoptotic cell death.21 The GTPase domain of GBP-1 is able to bind GMP, GDP, and GTP with similar affinities and to hydrolyze GTP to GMP.16, 31–33 Analyses of the crystal structure of GBP-1 have shown that it has a 36-kDa N-terminal large G (LG) domain (residues 1-317), which retains the main biochemical properties of GBP-1, and an elongated 32 kDa carboxy-terminal alpha-helical domain.16 In our study we demonstrated that the antiviral activity of GBP-1 required the GTPase activity that is the main biochemical property of GBP-1. We highlight the GBP-1 mutant, GBP-1.R48P, which exhibits no detectable GTP binding or hydrolysis and acts as a dominant negative mutant.34 Overexpression of GBP-1.R48P had no antiviral effect on HCV replication in cells expressing the HCV subgenomic replicon or replicating HCV-JFH1. These results suggest that the GTPase activity of GBP-1 has an antiviral action against HCV replication. It has been reported that IFNs induced translocation of GBP-1 proteins from the cytoplasm to the Golgi complex.18 We expect that GBP-1 proteins play some role in inhibiting the HCV life cycle.

It has been reported that some HCV proteins interact with various host proteins. Among the ISGs, LMP7, PKR, and 25OAS interacted with HCV-NS proteins.14, 15, 19 We focused on the interaction of ISG proteins with HCV-NS proteins using immunoprecipitation and mammalian two-hybrid assays. We found that GBP-1 bound to NS5B. Furthermore, we revealed that the molecular regions responsible were the LG domain of GBP-1 and the finger domain of NS5B. It was suggested that GBP-1 suppresses the biochemical activity of NS5B, the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, or that NS5B affected the GTPase of GBP-1 to enable persistent infection by HCV. We performed cotransfection of GBP-1-expression plasmids with plasmids expressing NS5B into Huh7 cells to analyze these interactions. In western blotting analysis we found that the level of GBP-1 protein was reduced by HCV-NS5B. We confirmed that the biochemical properties of GBP-1 proteins were suppressed by NS5B proteins in GTPase assays. These results suggest that HCV-NS5B has a suppressive effect on the GTPase activity of GBP-1, resulting in persistent infection and replication of HCV.

Several reports suggest that viruses target the IFN system of the host cells to establish replication.35 The IRF-3-mediated IFN-beta induction pathway could be a target for viruses to counteract antiviral responses and promote their replication. Ebola virus, bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), and influenza A virus interfere with the activation of IRF-3 through the activities of their virus-encoded proteins.36–38 It was recently reported that the HCV NS34A protease blocks virus-induced activation of IRF-3, possibly by proteolytic cleavage of Cardif.39, 40 We recently reported that the double-stranded RNA-triggered and RIG-I-triggered IFN expression and this blockade was partly mediated by NS4B.41 These reports suggest that HCV-NS proteins are involved in the persistence of intracellular replication and infection of HCV. In the present study we found that NS5B bound to GBP-1 and blocked its GTPase activity, the main biological property of GBP-1 to cause HCV replication and infection. Accordingly, we suggest that NS5B has RNA-dependent RNA polymerase activity but also an effect on antiviral host defense.

In conclusion, we found novel antiviral effects of GBP-1, IFI-6-16, and IFI-27 on the HCV life cycle. GBP-1 interacted with HCV-NS5B, but NS5B has suppressive activities on GBP-1 to establish persistent infection and intracellular replication.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References
  8. Supporting Information

We thank Mr. Satoshi Yamazaki at JST, ERATO, Nakauchi Stem Cell and Organ Regeneration Project for excellent technical assistance.

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  3. Materials and Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References
  8. Supporting Information
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Supporting Information

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Materials and Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. References
  8. Supporting Information

Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of this article.

FilenameFormatSizeDescription
HEP_23195_sm_SuppTab.doc20KSupporting Table 1. Sequences of the shRNAs for mRNA knock down analyses.

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