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Cell Commun Signal. 2011 Jun 2;9:16. doi: 10.1186/1478-811X-9-16.

FLIP (Flice-like inhibitory protein) suppresses cytoplasmic double-stranded-RNA-induced apoptosis and NF-κB and IRF3-mediated signaling.

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Division of Hematology, University of Washington, Harborview Medical Center, Box 359756, 325 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104, USA.



Cytoplasmic viral double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) is detected by a class of ubiquitous cytoplasmic RNA helicases, retinoic acid inducible gene-I (RIG-I) and melanoma differentiation antigen-5 (MDA5), which initiate a signaling cascade via their common adaptor called interferon-β (IFN-β) promoter stimulator-1 (IPS-1). This leads to the production of proinflammatory and antiviral cytokines, the type I Interferons, via mainly nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) and interferon response factor-3 (IRF3) transcription factors. Fas-associated death domain (FADD) protein, receptor-interacting protein (RIP1), caspase-8 and tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR)-associated death domain (TRADD) protein, all traditionally associated with death receptor signaling, are also involved in RIG-I/MDA5 signaling pathway. We previously showed that FLIP (Flice-like inhibitory protein), also designated as cflar (CASP8 and FADD-like apoptosis regulator), negatively regulates lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signaling in endothelial cells and mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and protected against TLR4-mediated apoptosis.


In this study, we investigated the role of FLIP in cellular response to cytoplasmic polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid, poly(I:C), a synthetic analog of dsRNA. Consistent with the previously described role of FADD in RIG-I/MDA5-mediated apoptosis, we found that FLIP-/- MEFs were more susceptible to killing by cytoplasmic poly(I:C). However, FLIP-/- MEFs also exhibited markedly increased expression of NF-κB-and IRF3- dependent genes in response to cytoplasmic poly(I:C). Importantly, reconstitution of FLIP in FLIP-/-MEFs reversed the hyper-activation of IRF3- and NF-κB-mediated gene expression. Further, we found that caspase-8 catalytic activity was not required for cytoplasmic poly(I:C)-mediated NF-κB and IRF3 signaling.


These results provide evidence for a crucial dual role for FLIP in antiviral responses to cytoplasmic dsRNA: it protects from cytoplasmic dsRNA-mediated cell death while down-regulating IRF3-and NF-κB-mediated gene expression. Since the pathogenesis of several viral infections involves a heightened and dysregulated cytokine response, a possible therapy could involve modulating FLIP levels.

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