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J Gen Virol. 2010 Jan;91(Pt 1):133-44. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.016170-0. Epub 2009 Sep 30.

Expression of the NS3 protease of cytopathogenic bovine viral diarrhea virus results in the induction of apoptosis but does not block activation of the beta interferon promoter.

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Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences and Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV; genus Pestivirus) can exist as two biotypes, cytopathogenic (CP) and non-cytopathogenic (NCP). The CP form differs from NCP by the continual expression of free non-structural protein 3 (NS3). CP BVDV infection of cultured cells induces apoptosis, whereas NCP BVDV infection has been reported to block the induction of beta interferon (IFN-beta). To investigate the viral mechanisms underlying these effects, NS3 or NS2-3 proteins of NCP and CP BVDV biotypes, together with the cognate NS3 co-factor NS4A, were expressed in cells, and their effect on apoptosis and induction of IFN-beta was investigated. Expression of NS3/4A resulted in increased activity of caspase-9 and caspase-3, indicating induction of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. Mutational analysis revealed that a protease-inactive NS3/4A was unable to induce apoptosis, suggesting that NS3 protease activity is required for initiation of apoptosis during CP BVDV infection. The ability of NS2-3 to modulate activation of the IFN-beta promoter was also investigated. These studies confirmed that, unlike the related hepatitis C virus and GB virus-B, BVDV proteases are unable to inhibit TLR3- and RIG-I-dependent activation of the IFN-beta promoter. These data suggest that BVDV NS3/4A is responsible for regulating the levels of cellular apoptosis and provide new insights regarding the viral elements associated with CP biotype pathogenesis.

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