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Virology. 1998 Apr 10;243(2):406-14.

Vaccinia virus E3L protein is an inhibitor of the interferon (i.f.n.)-induced 2-5A synthetase enzyme.

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Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, CSIC, Madrid, Spain.


Induction of apoptosis in mammalian cells by double-stranded (ds) RNA-dependent enzymes, protein kinase (PKR), and 2-5A-synthetase/RNase L (referred to as the 2-5A system) might be a mechanism mediating anticellular and antiviral actions of interferon (i.f.n.). To counteract the effect of i.f.n., animal viruses have acquired genes that block specific i.f.n. pathways. Among poxviruses, vaccinia virus (VV) encodes E3L, a dsRNA-binding protein, which inhibits activation of i.f.n.-induced PKR. It has been proposed that E3L might also block activation of the 2-5A system, but direct proof is lacking. To establish if E3L inhibits the 2-5A system, we have developed a method to assay apoptosis induced by increased production of enzymes in the 2-5A pathway, as well as of their putative modulators. This assay is based on the use of cells derived from homozygous PKR knockout mice (Pkr-/-) infected with a VV mutant lacking E3L (delta E3L) and transiently transfected with a luciferase reporter gene together with plasmid vectors expressing 2-5A-synthetase, RNase L, or E3L, all controlled by the same inducible promoter. We found that expression of 2-5A-synthetase inhibited luciferase activity in a dose-response manner, reaching inhibition values of 80% relative to transfections with control plasmids. Similar results were obtained by transfection with an RNase L vector, although in this case the extent of inhibition was further enhanced upon coexpression of 2-5A-synthetase and RNase L. Inhibition of protein synthesis mediated by the 2-5A system correlated well with induction of apoptosis. Transfection of cells with a plasmid vector expressing E3L together with 2-5A-synthetase completely prevented apoptosis induced by this enzyme. We conclude that VV E3L acts as an inhibitor of the i.f.n.-induced 2-5A-synthetase enzyme.

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