Novel dengue virus inhibitor 4-HPR activates ATF4 independent of protein kinase R–like Endoplasmic Reticulum Kinase and elevates levels of eIF2α phosphorylation in virus infected cells

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Abstract

Infections by dengue virus (DENV) are increasing worldwide, with an urgent need for effective anti-DENV agents. We recently identified N-(4-hydroxyphenyl) retinamide (4-HPR), an anti-DENV agent effective against all 4 serotypes of DENV in cell culture, and in a lethal mouse model for DENV infection (Fraser et al., 2014b). Although identified as an inhibitor of DENV non-structural protein 5 (NS5) recognition by host nuclear import proteins, the precise impact and mode of action of 4-HPR in effecting DENV clearance remains to be defined. Significantly, concurrent with decreased viral RNA and infectious DENV in 4-HPR-treated cells, we previously observed specific up-regulation of transcripts representing the Protein Kinase R–like Endoplasmic Reticulum Kinase (PERK) arm of the unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway upon 4-HPR addition. Here we pursue these findings in detail, examining the role of specific PERK pathway components in DENV clearance. We demonstrate that 4-HPR-induced nuclear localization of Activating Transcription Factor 4 (ATF4), a pathway component downstream from PERK, occurs in a PERK-independent manner, implying activation instead occurs through Integrated Stress Response (ISR) kinases. Significantly, ATF4 does not appear to be required for the antiviral activity of 4-HPR, suggesting transcriptional events induced by ATF4 do not drive the 4-HPR-induced antiviral state. Instead, we demonstrate that 4-HPR induces phosphorylation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α), a target of ISR kinases which controls translation attenuation, and confirm the importance of phosphorylated-eIF2α in DENV infection using guanabenz, a specific inhibitor of eIF2α dephosphorylation. This study provides the first detailed insight into the cellular effects modulated by 4-HPR in DENV-infected cells, critical to progressing 4-HPR towards the clinic.

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