Differential antiviral activity of European sea bass interferon-stimulated 15 protein (ISG15) against RGNNV and SJNNV betanodaviruses

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ISG15 is an antiviral protein acting intracellularly, by conjugation to viral or cellular proteins, or extracellularly, as cytokine. In this work, an in vitro system, consisting of E-11 cells over-expressing European sea bass ISG15 (Dl_ISG15_E11 cells), has been developed to evaluate the European sea bass ISG15 protein activity against RGNNV and SJNNV isolates. Regarding RGNNV, RNA2 copy number and viral titres were similar in E-11 and Dl_ISG15_E11 cells, and the cellular survival analyses demonstrated that Dl_ISG15_E11 cells were not protected from this virus. In contrast, ISG15 compromises SJNNV replication, since a reduction of the SJNNV genome synthesis has been recorded. The ISG15 anti-SJNNV activity was confirmed by viral titration and survival assays. In addition, a role of the intracellular ISG15 in modulating the transcription of endogenous genes has being recorded, with tlr3 gene being knocked out and e3 gene being up-regulated in RGNNV-inoculated Dl_ISG15_E11 cells. Sea bass ISG15 has also been detected extracellularly, and its activity has been evaluated by co-culture. The survival rate of RGNNV-inoculated E-11 cells increased from 25% to 46% when they were co-cultured with ISG15-producing cells. Similarly, the survival rate of SJNNV-inoculated E-11 cells increased from 27% to 51% in co-culture with ISG15-producing cells. To our knowledge, this is the first description of a differential antiviral activity of an ISG15 protein against two betanodavirus species, and the first evaluation of the cytokine-like activity of a fish ISG15 protein on non-immune cells.HighlightsIntracellular sea bass ISG15 exerts an antiviral role against SJNNV infection.The intracellular anti-RGNNV activity of the sea bass ISG15 has not been recorded.Intracellular sea bass ISG15 modulates gene transcription in RGNNV-inoculated cells.Medium containing sea bass ISG15 confers protection from RGNNV and SJNNV.

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