Negative regulation of intracellular hepatitis C virus replication by interferon regulatory factor 3
Interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-3 plays an important role in initiating cellular interferon-stimulated gene-mediated antiviral responses. In the present study, we evaluated the effects of IRF-3 expression and activation on intracellular hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication using an HCV replicon system.
An HCV replicon was constructed that expressed a neomycin-selectable chimeric firefly luciferase reporter protein. A small interfering (si) RNA oligonucleotide directed against IRF-3 mRNA was designed and synthesized. A eukaryote expression plasmid vector was constructed that expressed IRF-3 mRNA under control of the cytomegalovirus early promoter/enhancer. To evaluate transcriptional activity of the interferon-stimulated genes, a reporter vector was used that expressed firefly luciferase under control of the interferon-stimulated response element (ISRE).
The baseline expression of IRF-3 did not significantly differ between cells with and without expression of the replicon. Transfection of an IRF-3 expression plasmid into the cells raised the ISRE-luciferase activities. The increase of ISRE activity was significantly more potent in the replicon-expressing cells than in cells without replicon expression. Concomitantly, the overexpression of IRF-3 suppressed HCV replication levels. In contrast, siRNA knockdown of IRF-3 suppressed ISRE activity by 38% ± 2%. Interestingly, the suppression of IRF-3 resulted in a significant increase of HCV replication, by up to twofold, depending on the IRF-3 suppression levels.
IRF-3 negatively regulated intracellular HCV replication, and was partially activated in cells that expressed the HCV replicon. Thus, IRF-3 is a key molecule controlling HCV replication through modulation of host interferon gene responses.