Understanding the mechanisms of hepatitis C virus (HCV) pathogenesis and persistence has been hampered by the lack of small, convenient animal models. GB virus B (GBV-B) is phylogenetically the closest related virus to HCV. It causes generally acute and occasionally chronic hepatitis in small primates and is used as a surrogate model for HCV. It is not known, however, whether GBV-B has evolved strategies to circumvent host innate defenses similar to those of HCV, a property that may contribute to HCV persistence in vivo. We show here in cultured tamarin hepatocytes that GBV-B NS3/4A protease, but not a related catalytically inactive mutant, effectively blocks innate intracellular antiviral responses signaled through the RNA helicase, retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I), an essential sensor molecule that initiates host defenses against many RNA viruses, including HCV. GBV-B NS3/4A protease specifically cleaves mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein (MAVS; also known as IPS-1/Cardif/VISA) and dislodges it from mitochondria, thereby disrupting its function as a RIG-I adaptor and blocking downstream activation of both interferon regulatory factor 3 and nuclear factor kappa B. MAVS cleavage and abrogation of virus-induced interferon responses were also observed in Huh7 cells supporting autonomous replication of subgenomic GBV-B RNAs. Our data indicate that, as in the case of HCV, GBV-B has evolved to utilize its major protease to disrupt MG-1 signaling and impede innate antiviral defenses. These data provide further support for the use of GBV-B infection in small primates as an accurate surrogate model for deciphering virus-host interactions in hepacivirus pathogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science