Regulation of Hepatitis C virus replication and gene expression by the MAPK-ERK pathway

Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, 430071, China.
Virologica Sinica 10/2012; 27(5). DOI: 10.1007/s12250-012-3257-6

ABSTRACT The mitogen activated protein kinases-extracellular signal regulated kinases (MAPK-ERK) pathway is involved in regulation of multiple cellular processes including the cell cycle. In the present study using a Huh7 cell line Con1 with an HCV replicon, we have shown that the MAPK-ERK pathway plays a significant role in the modulation of HCV replication and protein expression and might influence IFN-α signalling. Epithelial growth factor (EGF) was able to stimulate ERK activation and decreased HCV RNA load while a MAPK-ERK pathway inhibitor U0126 led to an elevated HCV RNA load and higher NS5A protein amounts in Con1 cells. It could be further demonstrated that the inhibition of the MAPK-ERK pathway facilitated the translation directed by the HCV internal ribosome entry site. Consistently, a U0126 treatment enhanced activity of the HCV reporter replicon in transient transfection assays. Thus, the MAPK-ERK pathway plays an important role in the regulation of HCV gene expression and replication. In addition, cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) downstream of ERK may also be involved in the modulation of HCV replication since roscovitine, an inhibitor of CDKs had a similar effect to that of U0126. Modulation of the cell cycle progression by cell cycle inhibitor or RNAi resulted consistently in changes of HCV RNA levels. Further, the replication of HCV replicon in Con1 cells was inhibited by IFN-α. The inhibitory effect of IFN-α could be partly reversed by pre-incubation of Con-1 cells with inhibitors of the MAPK-ERK pathway and CDKs. It could be shown that the MAPK-ERK inhibitors are able to partially modulate the expression of interferon-stimulated genes.

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