Persistent hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is established by the formation of an intranuclear pool of covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) in the liver. Very little is known about the intrahepatic distribution of HBV cccDNA in infected patients, particularly at the single-cell level. Here, we established a highly sensitive and specific ISH assay for the detection of HBV RNA, DNA, and cccDNA. The specificity of our cccDNA probe set was confirmed by its strict intranuclear signal and by a series of Southern blot analyses. Use of our in situ assay in conjunction with IHC or immunofluorescence uncovered a surprisingly mosaic distribution of viral antigens and nucleic acids. Most strikingly, a mutually exclusive pattern was found between HBV surface antigen–positive (HBsA-positive) and HBV DNA– and cccDNA-positive cells. A longitudinal observation of patients over a 1-year period of adeforvir therapy confirmed the persistence of a nuclear reservoir of viral DNA, although cytoplasmic DNA was effectively depleted in these individuals. In conclusion, our method for detecting viral nucleic acids, including cccDNA, with single-cell resolution provides a means for monitoring intrahepatic virological events in chronic HBV infection. More important, our observations unravel the complexity of the HBV life cycle in vivo.
Xiaonan Zhang, Wei Lu, Ye Zheng, Weixia Wang, Lu Bai, Liang Chen, Yanling Feng, Zhanqing Zhang, Zhenghong Yuan
Simone Lanini, Gina Portella, Francesco Vairo, Gary P Kobinger, Antonio Pesenti, Martin Langer, Soccoh Kabia, Giorgio Brogiato, Jackson Amone, Concetta Castilletti, Rossella Miccio, Alimuddin Zumla, Maria Rosaria Capobianchi, Antonino Di Caro, Gino Strada, Giuseppe Ippolito, INMI-EMERGENCY EBOV Sierra Leone Study group
BACKGROUND. Ebola virus (EBOV) causes periodic outbreaks of life-threatening EBOV disease in Africa. Historically, these outbreaks have been relatively small and geographically contained; however, the magnitude of the EBOV outbreak that began in 2014 in West Africa has been unprecedented. The aim of this study was to describe the viral kinetics of EBOV during this outbreak and identify factors that contribute to outbreak progression.
METHODS. From July to December 2014, one laboratory in Sierra Leone processed over 2,700 patient samples for EBOV detection by quantitative PCR (qPCR). Viremia was measured following patient admission. Age, sex, and approximate time of symptom onset were also recorded for each patient. The data was analyzed using various mathematical models to find trends of potential interest.
RESULTS. The analysis revealed a significant difference (
CONCLUSIONS. Our results indicate that initial viremia is associated with outcome of the individual and outbreak duration; therefore, care must be taken in planning clinical trials and interventions. Additional research in virus adaptation and the impacts of host factors on EBOV transmission and pathogenesis is needed.
Marc-Antoine de La Vega, Grazia Caleo, Jonathan Audet, Xiangguo Qiu, Robert A. Kozak, James I. Brooks, Steven Kern, Anja Wolz, Armand Sprecher, Jane Greig, Kamalini Lokuge, David K. Kargbo, Brima Kargbo, Antonino Di Caro, Allen Grolla, Darwyn Kobasa, James E. Strong, Giuseppe Ippolito, Michel Van Herp, Gary P. Kobinger
For hepatitis C virus (HCV) and other highly variable viruses, broadly neutralizing mAbs are an important guide for vaccine development. The development of resistance to anti-HCV mAbs is poorly understood, in part due to a lack of neutralization testing against diverse, representative panels of HCV variants. Here, we developed a neutralization panel expressing diverse, naturally occurring HCV envelopes (E1E2s) and used this panel to characterize neutralizing breadth and resistance mechanisms of 18 previously described broadly neutralizing anti-HCV human mAbs. The observed mAb resistance could not be attributed to polymorphisms in E1E2 at known mAb-binding residues. Additionally, hierarchical clustering analysis of neutralization resistance patterns revealed relationships between mAbs that were not predicted by prior epitope mapping, identifying 3 distinct neutralization clusters. Using this clustering analysis and envelope sequence data, we identified polymorphisms in E2 that confer resistance to multiple broadly neutralizing mAbs. These polymorphisms, which are not at mAb contact residues, also conferred resistance to neutralization by plasma from HCV-infected subjects. Together, our method of neutralization clustering with sequence analysis reveals that polymorphisms at noncontact residues may be a major immune evasion mechanism for HCV, facilitating viral persistence and presenting a challenge for HCV vaccine development.
Justin R. Bailey, Lisa N. Wasilewski, Anna E. Snider, Ramy El-Diwany, William O. Osburn, Zhenyong Keck, Steven K.H. Foung, Stuart C. Ray
Unlike other picornaviruses, hepatitis A virus (HAV) is cloaked in host membranes when released from cells, providing protection from neutralizing antibodies and facilitating spread in the liver. Acute HAV infection is typified by minimal type I IFN responses; therefore, we questioned whether plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), which produce IFN when activated, are capable of sensing enveloped virions (eHAV). Although concentrated nonenveloped virus failed to activate freshly isolated human pDCs, these cells produced substantial amounts of IFN-α via TLR7 signaling when cocultured with infected cells. pDCs required either close contact with infected cells or exposure to concentrated culture supernatants for IFN-α production. In isopycnic and rate-zonal gradients, pDC-activating material cosedimented with eHAV but not membrane-bound acetylcholinesterase, suggesting that eHAV, and not viral RNA exosomes, is responsible for IFN-α induction. pDC activation did not require virus replication and was associated with efficient eHAV uptake, which was facilitated by phosphatidylserine receptors on pDCs. In chimpanzees, pDCs were transiently recruited to the liver early in infection, during or shortly before maximal intrahepatic IFN-stimulated gene expression, but disappeared prior to inflammation onset. Our data reveal that, while membrane envelopment protects HAV against neutralizing antibody, it also facilitates an early but limited detection of HAV infection by pDCs.
Zongdi Feng, You Li, Kevin L. McKnight, Lucinda Hensley, Robert E. Lanford, Christopher M. Walker, Stanley M. Lemon
Successful hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment is defined as the absence of viremia 6 months after therapy cessation. We previously reported that trace amounts of HCV RNA, below the sensitivity of the standard clinical assay, can reappear sporadically in treatment responders. Here, we assessed the infectivity of this RNA and infused 3 chimpanzees sequentially at 9-week intervals with plasma or PBMCs from patients who tested positive for trace amounts of HCV RNA more than 6 months after completing pegylated IFN-α/ribavirin therapy. A fourth chimpanzee received HCV RNA–negative plasma and PBMCs from healthy blood donors. The 3 experimental chimpanzees, but not the control chimpanzee, generated HCV-specific T cell responses against nonstructural and structural HCV sequences 6–10 weeks after the first infusion of patient plasma and during subsequent infusions. In 1 chimpanzee, T cell responses declined, and this animal developed high-level viremia at week 27. Deep sequencing of HCV demonstrated transmission of a minor HCV variant from the first infusion donor that persisted in the chimpanzee for more than 6 months despite undetectable systemic viremia. Collectively, these results demonstrate that trace amounts of HCV RNA, which appear sporadically in successfully treated patients, can be infectious; furthermore, transmission can be masked in the recipient by an extended eclipse phase prior to establishing high-level viremia.
Naga Suresh Veerapu, Su-Hyung Park, Damien C. Tully, Todd M. Allen, Barbara Rehermann
A wide range of antiviral drugs is currently available; however, drug-resistant viruses have begun to emerge and represent a potential public health risk. Here, we explored the use of compounds that inhibit or interfere with the action of essential host factors to prevent virus replication. In particular, we focused on the cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) inhibitor, FIT-039, which suppressed replication of a broad spectrum of DNA viruses through inhibition of mRNA transcription. Specifically, FIT-039 inhibited replication of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), HSV-2, human adenovirus, and human cytomegalovirus in cultured cells, and topical application of FIT-039 ointment suppressed skin legion formation in a murine HSV-1 infection model. FIT-039 did not affect cell cycle progression or cellular proliferation in host cells. Compared with the general CDK inhibitor flavopiridol, transcriptome analyses of FIT-039–treated cells revealed that FIT-039 specifically inhibited CDK9. Given at concentrations above the inhibitory concentration, FIT-039 did not have a cytotoxic effect on mammalian cells. Importantly, administration of FIT-039 ameliorated the severity of skin lesion formation in mice infected with an acyclovir-resistant HSV-1, without noticeable adverse effects. Together, these data indicate that FIT-039 has potential as an antiviral agent for clinical therapeutics.
Makoto Yamamoto, Hiroshi Onogi, Isao Kii, Suguru Yoshida, Kei Iida, Hiroyuki Sakai, Minako Abe, Toshiaki Tsubota, Nobutoshi Ito, Takamitsu Hosoya, Masatoshi Hagiwara
Eric G. Meissner, David Wu, Anu Osinusi, Dimitra Bon, Kimmo Virtaneva, Dan Sturdevant, Steve Porcella, Honghui Wang, Eva Herrmann, John McHutchison, Anthony F. Suffredini, Michael Polis, Stephen Hewitt, Ludmila Prokunina-Olsson, Henry Masur, Anthony S. Fauci, Shyamasundaran Kottilil
Vaccines are largely evaluated for their ability to promote adaptive immunity, with little focus on the induction of negative immune regulators. Adjuvants facilitate and enhance vaccine-induced immune responses and have been explored for mediating protection against HIV. Using a regimen of peptide priming followed by a modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) boost in a nonhuman primate model, we found that an SIV vaccine incorporating molecular adjuvants mediated partial protection against rectal SIVmac251 challenges. Animals treated with vaccine and multiple adjuvants exhibited a reduced viral load (VL) compared with those treated with vaccine only. Surprisingly, animals treated with adjuvant alone had reduced VLs that were comparable to or better than those of the vaccine-treated group. VL reduction was greatest in animals with the MHC class I allele Mamu-A*01 that were treated with adjuvant only and was largely dependent on CD8+ T cells. Early VLs correlated with Ki67+CCR5+CD4+ T cell frequency, while set-point VL was associated with expansion of a myeloid cell population that was phenotypically similar to myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and that suppressed T cell responses in vitro. MDSC expansion occurred in animals receiving vaccine and was not observed in the adjuvant-only group. Collectively, these results indicate that vaccine-induced MDSCs inhibit protective cellular immunity and suggest that preventing MDSC induction may be critical for effective AIDS vaccination.
Yongjun Sui, Alison Hogg, Yichuan Wang, Blake Frey, Huifeng Yu, Zheng Xia, David Venzon, Katherine McKinnon, Jeremy Smedley, Mercy Gathuka, Dennis Klinman, Brandon F. Keele, Sol Langermann, Linda Liu, Genoveffa Franchini, Jay A. Berzofsky
Damage to the intestinal mucosa results in the translocation of microbes from the intestinal lumen into the circulation. Microbial translocation has been proposed to trigger immune activation, inflammation, and coagulopathy, all of which are key factors that drive HIV disease progression and non-HIV comorbidities; however, direct proof of a causal link is still lacking. Here, we have demonstrated that treatment of acutely SIV-infected pigtailed macaques with the drug sevelamer, which binds microbial lipopolysaccharide in the gut, dramatically reduces immune activation and inflammation and slightly reduces viral replication. Furthermore, sevelamer administration reduced coagulation biomarkers, confirming the contribution of microbial translocation in the development of cardiovascular comorbidities in SIV-infected nonhuman primates. Together, our data suggest that early control of microbial translocation may improve the outcome of HIV infection and limit noninfectious comorbidities associated with AIDS.
Jan Kristoff, George Haret-Richter, Dongzhu Ma, Ruy M. Ribeiro, Cuiling Xu, Elaine Cornell, Jennifer L. Stock, Tianyu He, Adam D. Mobley, Samantha Ross, Anita Trichel, Cara Wilson, Russell Tracy, Alan Landay, Cristian Apetrei, Ivona Pandrea
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection accounts for approximately 64 million cases of respiratory disease and 200,000 deaths worldwide each year, yet no broadly effective prophylactic or treatment regimen is available. RSV deploys paired, self-associating, heptad repeat domains of its fusion protein, RSV-F, to form a fusogenic 6-helix bundle that enables the virus to penetrate the host cell membrane. Here, we developed hydrocarbon double-stapled RSV fusion peptides that exhibit stabilized α-helical structure and striking proteolytic resistance. Pretreatment with double-stapled RSV peptides that specifically bound to the RSV fusion bundle inhibited infection by both laboratory and clinical RSV isolates in cells and murine infection models. Intranasal delivery of a lead double-stapled RSV peptide effectively prevented viral infection of the nares. A chitosan-based nanoparticle preparation markedly enhanced pulmonary delivery, further preventing progression of RSV infection to the lung. Thus, our results provide a strategy for inhibiting RSV infection by mucosal and endotracheal delivery of double-stapled RSV fusion peptides.
Gregory H. Bird, Sandhya Boyapalle, Terianne Wong, Kwadwo Opoku-Nsiah, Raminder Bedi, W. Christian Crannell, Alisa F. Perry, Huy Nguyen, Viviana Sampayo, Ankita Devareddy, Subhra Mohapatra, Shyam S. Mohapatra, Loren D. Walensky
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is the major cause of bronchiolitis in young children. The factors that contribute to the increased propensity of RSV-induced distal airway disease compared with other commonly encountered respiratory viruses remain unclear. Here, we identified the RSV-encoded nonstructural 2 (NS2) protein as a viral genetic determinant for initiating RSV-induced distal airway obstruction. Infection of human cartilaginous airway epithelium (HAE) and a hamster model of disease with recombinant respiratory viruses revealed that NS2 promotes shedding of infected epithelial cells, resulting in two consequences of virus infection. First, epithelial cell shedding accelerated the reduction of virus titers, presumably by clearing virus-infected cells from airway mucosa. Second, epithelial cells shedding into the narrow-diameter bronchiolar airway lumens resulted in rapid accumulation of detached, pleomorphic epithelial cells, leading to acute distal airway obstruction. Together, these data indicate that RSV infection of the airway epithelium, via the action of NS2, promotes epithelial cell shedding, which not only accelerates viral clearance but also contributes to acute obstruction of the distal airways. Our results identify RSV NS2 as a contributing factor for the enhanced propensity of RSV to cause severe airway disease in young children and suggest NS2 as a potential therapeutic target for reducing the severity of distal airway disease.
Rachael M. Liesman, Ursula J. Buchholz, Cindy L. Luongo, Lijuan Yang, Alan D. Proia, John P. DeVincenzo, Peter L. Collins, Raymond J. Pickles
The most abundantly produced virion protein in human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the immunodominant phosphoprotein 65 (pp65), which is frequently included in CMV vaccines. Although it is nonessential for in vitro CMV growth, pp65 displays immunomodulatory functions that support a potential role in primary and/or persistent infection. To determine the contribution of pp65 to CMV infection and immunity, we generated a rhesus CMV lacking both pp65 orthologs (RhCMVΔpp65ab). While deletion of pp65ab slightly reduced growth in vitro and increased defective particle formation, the protein composition of secreted virions was largely unchanged. Interestingly, pp65 was not required for primary and persistent infection in animals. Immune responses induced by RhCMVΔpp65ab did not prevent reinfection with rhesus CMV; however, reinfection with RhCMVΔUS2-11, which lacks viral-encoded MHC-I antigen presentation inhibitors, was prevented. Unexpectedly, induction of pp65b-specific T cells alone did not protect against RhCMVΔUS2-11 challenge, suggesting that T cells targeting multiple CMV antigens are required for protection. However, pp65-specific immunity was crucial for controlling viral dissemination during primary infection, as indicated by the marked increase of RhCMVΔpp65ab genome copies in CMV-naive, but not CMV-immune, animals. Our data provide rationale for inclusion of pp65 into CMV vaccines but also demonstrate that pp65-induced T cell responses alone do not recapitulate the protective effect of natural infection.
Daniel Malouli, Scott G. Hansen, Ernesto S. Nakayasu, Emily E. Marshall, Colette M. Hughes, Abigail B. Ventura, Roxanne M. Gilbride, Matthew S. Lewis, Guangwu Xu, Craig Kreklywich, Nathan Whizin, Miranda Fischer, Alfred W. Legasse, Kasinath Viswanathan, Don Siess, David G. Camp II, Michael K. Axthelm, Christoph Kahl, Victor R. DeFilippis, Richard D. Smith, Daniel N. Streblow, Louis J. Picker, Klaus Früh
The ability of individual T cells to perform multiple effector functions is crucial for protective immunity against viruses and cancer. This polyfunctionality is frequently lost during chronic infections; however, the molecular mechanisms driving T cell polyfunctionality are poorly understood. We found that human T cells stimulated by a high concentration of antigen lacked polyfunctionality and expressed a transcription profile similar to that of exhausted T cells. One specific pathway implicated by the transcription profile in control of T cell polyfunctionality was the MAPK/ERK pathway. This pathway was altered in response to different antigen concentrations, and polyfunctionality correlated with upregulation of phosphorylated ERK. T cells that were stimulated with a high concentration of antigen upregulated sprouty-2 (
Yen-Ling Chiu, Liang Shan, Hailiang Huang, Carl Haupt, Catherine Bessell, David H. Canaday, Hao Zhang, Ya-Chi Ho, Jonathan D. Powell, Mathias Oelke, Joseph B. Margolick, Joel N. Blankson, Diane E. Griffin, Jonathan P. Schneck
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-borne arthralgia arbovirus that is reemergent in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. CHIKV infection has been shown to be self-limiting, but the molecular mechanisms of the innate immune response that control CHIKV replication remain undefined. Here, longitudinal transcriptional analyses of PBMCs from a cohort of CHIKV-infected patients revealed that type I IFNs controlled CHIKV infection via RSAD2 (which encodes viperin), an enigmatic multifunctional IFN-stimulated gene (ISG). Viperin was highly induced in monocytes, the major target cell of CHIKV in blood. Anti-CHIKV functions of viperin were dependent on its localization in the ER, and the N-terminal amphipathic α-helical domain was crucial for its antiviral activity in controlling CHIKV replication. Furthermore, mice lacking Rsad2 had higher viremia and severe joint inflammation compared with wild-type mice. Our data demonstrate that viperin is a critical antiviral host protein that controls CHIKV infection and provide a preclinical basis for the design of effective control strategies against CHIKV and other reemerging arthrogenic alphaviruses.
Terk-Shin Teng, Suan-Sin Foo, Diane Simamarta, Fok-Moon Lum, Teck-Hui Teo, Aleksei Lulla, Nicholas K.W. Yeo, Esther G.L. Koh, Angela Chow, Yee-Sin Leo, Andres Merits, Keh-Chuang Chin, Lisa F.P. Ng
In order to prime T cells, DCs integrate signals emanating directly from pathogens and from their noxious action on the host. DNGR-1 (CLEC9A) is a DC-restricted receptor that detects dead cells. Therefore, we investigated the possibility that DNGR-1 affects immunity to cytopathic viruses. DNGR-1 was essential for cross-presentation of dying vaccinia virus–infected (VACV-infected) cells to CD8+ T cells in vitro. Following injection of VACV or VACV-infected cells into mice, DNGR-1 detected the ligand in dying infected cells and mediated cross-priming of anti-VACV CD8+ T cells. Loss of DNGR-1 impaired the CD8+ cytotoxic response to VACV, especially against those virus strains that are most dependent on cross-presentation. The decrease in total anti-VACV CTL activity was associated with a profound increase in viral load and delayed resolution of the primary lesion. In addition, lack of DNGR-1 markedly diminished protection from infection induced by vaccination with the modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) strain. DNGR-1 thus contributes to anti-VACV immunity, following both primary infection and vaccination. The non-redundant ability of DNGR-1 to regulate cross-presentation of viral antigens suggests that this form of regulation of antiviral immunity could be exploited for vaccination.
Salvador Iborra, Helena M. Izquierdo, María Martínez-López, Noelia Blanco-Menéndez, Caetano Reis e Sousa, David Sancho
SIVs infecting wild-living apes in west central Africa have crossed the species barrier to humans on at least four different occasions, one of which spawned the AIDS pandemic. Although the chimpanzee precursor of pandemic HIV-1 strains must have been able to infect humans, the capacity of SIVcpz strains to replicate in human lymphoid tissues (HLTs) is not known. Here, we show that SIVcpz strains from two chimpanzee subspecies are capable of replicating in human tonsillary explant cultures, albeit only at low titers. However, SIVcpz replication in HLT was significantly improved after introduction of a previously identified human-specific adaptation at position 30 in the viral Gag matrix protein. An Arg or Lys at this position significantly increased SIVcpz replication in HLT, while the same mutation reduced viral replication in chimpanzee-derived CD4+ T cells. Thus, naturally occurring SIVcpz strains are capable of infecting HLTs, the major site of HIV-1 replication in vivo. However, efficient replication requires the acquisition of a host-specific adaptation in the viral matrix protein. These results identify Gag matrix as a major determinant of SIVcpz replication fitness in humans and suggest a critical role in the emergence of HIV/AIDS.
Frederic Bibollet-Ruche, Anke Heigele, Brandon F. Keele, Juliet L. Easlick, Julie M. Decker, Jun Takehisa, Gerald Learn, Paul M. Sharp, Beatrice H. Hahn, Frank Kirchhoff
Herpes simplex viruses (HSVs) are highly prevalent neurotropic viruses. While they can replicate lytically in cells of the epithelial lineage, causing lesions on mucocutaneous surfaces, HSVs also establish latent infections in neurons, which act as reservoirs of virus for subsequent reactivation events. Immunological control of HSV involves activation of innate immune pattern-recognition receptors such as TLR3, which detects double-stranded RNA and induces type I IFN expression. Humans with defects in the TLR3/IFN pathway have an elevated susceptibility to HSV infections of the CNS. However, it is not known what cell type mediates the role of TLR3 in the immunological control of HSV, and it is not known whether TLR3 sensing occurs prior to or after CNS entry. Here, we show that in mice TLR3 provides early control of HSV-2 infection immediately after entry into the CNS by mediating type I IFN responses in astrocytes. Tlr3–/– mice were hypersusceptible to HSV-2 infection in the CNS after vaginal inoculation. HSV-2 exhibited broader neurotropism in Tlr3–/– mice than it did in WT mice, with astrocytes being most abundantly infected. Tlr3–/– mice did not exhibit a global defect in innate immune responses to HSV, but astrocytes were defective in HSV-induced type I IFN production. Thus, TLR3 acts in astrocytes to sense HSV-2 infection immediately after entry into the CNS, possibly preventing HSV from spreading beyond the neurons mediating entry into the CNS.
Line S. Reinert, Louis Harder, Christian K. Holm, Marie B. Iversen, Kristy A. Horan, Frederik Dagnæs-Hansen, Benedicte P. Ulhøi, Thomas H. Holm, Trine H. Mogensen, Trevor Owens, Jens R. Nyengaard, Allan R. Thomsen, Søren R. Paludan
Infections by viruses are associated with approximately 12% of human cancer. Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is causally linked to several malignancies commonly found in AIDS patients. The mechanism of KSHV-induced oncogenesis remains elusive, due in part to the lack of an adequate experimental system for cellular transformation of primary cells. Here, we report efficient infection and cellular transformation of primary rat embryonic metanephric mesenchymal precursor cells (MM cells) by KSHV. Cellular transformation occurred at as early as day 4 after infection and in nearly all infected cells. Transformed cells expressed hallmark vascular endothelial, lymphatic endothelial, and mesenchymal markers and efficiently induced tumors in nude mice. KSHV established latent infection in MM cells, and lytic induction resulted in low levels of detectable infectious virions despite robust expression of lytic genes. Most KSHV-induced tumor cells were in a latent state, although a few showed heterogeneous expression of lytic genes. This efficient system for KSHV cellular transformation of primary cells might facilitate the study of growth deregulation mechanisms resulting from KSHV infections.
Tiffany Jones, Fengchun Ye, Roble Bedolla, Yufei Huang, Jia Meng, Liwu Qian, Hongyi Pan, Fuchun Zhou, Rosalie Moody, Brent Wagner, Mazen Arar, Shou-Jiang Gao
HBV infection remains a leading cause of death worldwide. IFN-α inhibits viral replication in vitro and in vivo, and pegylated IFN-α is a commonly administered treatment for individuals infected with HBV. The HBV genome contains a typical IFN-stimulated response element (ISRE), but the molecular mechanisms by which IFN-α suppresses HBV replication have not been established in relevant experimental systems. Here, we show that IFN-α inhibits HBV replication by decreasing the transcription of pregenomic RNA (pgRNA) and subgenomic RNA from the HBV covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) minichromosome, both in cultured cells in which HBV is replicating and in mice whose livers have been repopulated with human hepatocytes and infected with HBV. Administration of IFN-α resulted in cccDNA-bound histone hypoacetylation as well as active recruitment to the cccDNA of transcriptional corepressors. IFN-α treatment also reduced binding of the STAT1 and STAT2 transcription factors to active cccDNA. The inhibitory activity of IFN-α was linked to the IRSE, as IRSE-mutant HBV transcribed less pgRNA and could not be repressed by IFN-α treatment. Our results identify a molecular mechanism whereby IFN-α mediates epigenetic repression of HBV cccDNA transcriptional activity, which may assist in the development of novel effective therapeutics.
Laura Belloni, Lena Allweiss, Francesca Guerrieri, Natalia Pediconi, Tassilo Volz, Teresa Pollicino, Joerg Petersen, Giovanni Raimondo, Maura Dandri, Massimo Levrero
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