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J Virol. 2015 Nov;89(21):11056-68. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01964-15. Epub 2015 Aug 26.

Pathogen-Associated Molecular Pattern Recognition of Hepatitis C Virus Transmitted/Founder Variants by RIG-I Is Dependent on U-Core Length.

Author information

1
Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease, Department of Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
2
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
3
Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA.
4
Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease, Department of Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA mgale@uw.edu.

Abstract

Despite the introduction of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs against hepatitis C virus (HCV), infection remains a major public health concern because DAA therapeutics do not prevent reinfection and patients can still progress to chronic liver disease. Chronic HCV infection is supported by a variety of viral immune evasion strategies, but, remarkably, 20% to 30% of acute infections spontaneously clear prior to development of adaptive immune responses, thus implicating innate immunity in resolving acute HCV infection. However, the virus-host interactions regulating acute infection are unknown. Transmission of HCV involves one or a few transmitted/founder (T/F) variants. In infected hepatocytes, the retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) protein recognizes 5' triphosphate (5'ppp) of the HCV RNA and a pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP) motif located within the 3' untranslated region consisting of poly-U/UC. PAMP binding activates RIG-I to induce innate immune signaling and type 1 interferon antiviral defenses. HCV poly-U/UC sequences can differ in length and complexity, suggesting that PAMP diversity in T/F genomes could regulate innate immune control of acute HCV infection. Using 14 unique poly-U/UC sequences from HCV T/F genomes recovered from acute-infection patients, we tested whether RIG-I recognition and innate immune activation correlate with PAMP sequence characteristics. We show that T/F variants are recognized by RIG-I in a manner dependent on length of the U-core motif of the poly-U/UC PAMP and are recognized by RIG-I to induce innate immune responses that restrict acute infection. PAMP recognition of T/F HCV variants by RIG-I may therefore impart innate immune signaling and HCV restriction to impact acute-phase-to-chronic-phase transition.

IMPORTANCE:

Recognition of nonself molecular patterns such as those seen with viral nucleic acids is an essential step in triggering the immune response to virus infection. Innate immunity is induced by hepatitis C virus infection through the recognition of viral RNA by the cellular RIG-I protein, where RIG-I recognizes a poly-uridine/cytosine motif in the viral genome. Variation within this motif may provide an immune evasion strategy for transmitted/founder viruses during acute infection. Using 14 unique poly-U/UC sequences from HCV T/F genomes recovered from acutely infected HCV patients, we demonstrate that RIG-I binding and activation of innate immunity depend primarily on the length of the uridine core within this motif. T/F variants found in acute infection contained longer U cores within the motif and could activate RIG-I and induce innate immune signaling sufficient to restrict viral infection. Thus, recognition of T/F variants by RIG-I could significantly impact the transition from acute to chronic infection.

PMID:
26311867
PMCID:
PMC4621103
DOI:
10.1128/JVI.01964-15
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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