Functional characterisation of the host sterol metyabolic network in the infection antiviral response.
Hsieh, Wei Yuan
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Sterols play many important roles in physiology, including maintaining cell membrane integrity, and producing vitamin D and steroid hormones. Recent studies implicate sterol metabolism in the host innate immune response. Previous work, based on transcriptional profiling studies of mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) infection of primary bone-marrow-derived macrophages (BMDM, MΦ), uncovered a previously uncharacterized role of interferon in regulating the cholesterol pathway. Notably, Toll-like receptor (TLR) induced interferon modulates the suppression of SREBP2 (Sterol Regulatory Element-Binding Protein 2) activation, the master transcription factor for sterol biosynthesis. This finding resulted in the downregulation of the sterol biosynthesis pathway. However, how interferon is molecularly linked to sterol metabolism, and what part of the pathway mediates the antiviral effect remains unknown. The central hypothesis of the thesis is that the antiviral effect of interferon is in part mediated by secondary sterol metabolites and the dependency of viral replication on the host mevalonate branch of the sterol biosynthesis pathway. To test this hypothesis, my studies have examined the components of the host sterol pathway and their respective roles in influencing viral replication. Paradigmatically, I used MCMV and BMDM to explore the host- metabolic-virus interactions. Specifically, my findings address the question of how MCMV replication depends on the sterol biosynthesis pathway, and how the pathway is modulated by interferon as an antiviral response. In Chapter 2, the importance of the sterol biosynthesis pathway for viral replication was investigated using a combination of gene silencing and pharmacological inhibitors. These studies demonstrated that resistance to viral infection through suppressing the cholesterol pathway is not due to a requirement of the virus for cholesterol itself, but instead involves the mevalonate-isoprenoid arm of the pathway. This branch of the pathway chemically links lipids to specific host proteins (protein prenylation). These results suggest a new role for the mevalonate arm during viral infection. In Chapter 3, I examined what part of the sterol pathway mediates the antiviral effects. Oxysterols are natural modulators of sterol biosynthesis, and are produced by the oxidation of cholesterol by the enzyme cholesterol hydroxylase. Oxysterol suppression of SREBP2 activation leads to transcriptional repression of the sterol biosynthesis pathway. Additionally, oxysterols also modulate cholesterol homeostasis through cholesterol efflux. My studies led to identifing cholesterol-25-hydroxylase (Ch25h) as an interferon-stimulated gene (ISG). CH25H oxidizes cholesterol to produce a soluble oxysterol metabolite, 25-hydroxycholesterol (25-HC). Treatment of cells with 25-HC resulted in antiviral effects against MCMV and MHV-68. 25-HC was found to have no effects on MCMV entry into the host cell, but rather mediated inhibition of viral gene transcription. In addition, 25-HC-specific antiviral effect partially involved the suppression of the isoprenoid pathway, rather than cholesterol efflux. This work uncovered a physiological role for 25-HC as a sterol-lipid effector of an innate immune pathway. The antiviral activity of 25-HC in a lipid replete condition was found to occur at a concentration higher than the concentration required to inhibit SREBP2 activation. This implies that the antiviral effects of 25-HC is independent of SREBP2 in sterol replete conditions. Conversely, the antiviral action of 25-HC was signifi enhanced in cells under sterol-depleted conditions, suggesting that the antiviral effect of 25- HC is likely mediated through multiple processes involving SREBP2 dependent and independent mechanisms. These sterol dependent and independent mechanisms are examined in Chapter 4, using pathway expression profiling and pharmacological synergy studies. These studies showed that 25-HC suppression of the isoprenoid synthetic pathway is crucial in controlling infection, but also highlighted that other 25-HC dependent antiviral mechanisms are likely to exist. The inhibition of the mevalonate-isoprenoid arm by statins and 25-HC clearly demonstrated that MCMV replication dependents on protein prenylation. Chapter 5 investigation showed that either chemical inhibition of geranylgeranylation of host proteins or limiting mevalonate production led to restriction of MCMV replication. Importantly, through a series of systematic loss of function siRNA screenings demonstrated that specific host RabGTPases mediating vesicular transport pathways play vital roles in the replication and the assembly of the virus. This finding provides new mechanistic insights in to the dependency of cytomegalovirus replication on the host cell trafficking pathways and lays the groundwork for further definition of this important aspect of host-viral interactions. In summary, the overall findings of this research support the original hypothesis, by highlighting the importance of the host mevalonate-isoprenoid pathway, and provide further definition of the mechanisms and components linking sterol metabolism with interferon mediated antiviral effect.