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Prion. 2012 Nov-Dec;6(5):443-6. doi: 10.4161/pri.22579. Epub 2012 Oct 23.

Protective role of MyD88-independent innate immune responses against prion infection.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki, Japan.


Despite recent progress in the understanding of prion diseases, little is known about the host-defense mechanisms against prion. Although it has long been thought that type I interferon (IFN-I) has no protective effect on prion infection, certain key molecules in innate immunity such as toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 seemed to be involved in the host response. For this reason we decided to focus on TLRs and investigate the role of a transcription factor, interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3), because the absence of MyD88, a major adaptor signaling molecule of TLRs, has no effect on the survival of prion infected mice. Intriguingly, survival periods of prion inoculated IRF3-knockout mice became significantly shorter than those of wild-type mice. In addition, IRF3 stimulation inhibited PrP (Sc) replication in prion persistently-infected cells, and a de novo prion infection assay revealed that IRF3-overexpression could make host cells resistant to prion infection. Our work suggests that IRF3 may play a key role in innate immune responses against invasion of prion pathogens. Activated IRF3 could upregulate several anti-pathogen factors, including IFN-I, and induce sequential responses. Although the mechanism for the anti-prion effects mediated by IRF3 has yet to be clarified, certain interferon responsive genes might be involved in the anti-prion host-defense mechanism.

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