Increase of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus growth by knockout of IRF9 gene in Epithelioma papulosum cyprini cells

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Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) has been a notorious pathogen in freshwater and marine fish. Due to the lack of effective treatment measures against VHSV disease, the development of prophylactic vaccines has been required, and methods that can produce high-titered viruses would be advantageous in producing cost-effective vaccines. Type I interferon (IFN) responses are the key elements of vertebrates’ antiviral activities, and IFN-stimulated gene factor 3 (ISGF3) complex formed through type I IFNs up-regulates the expression of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). IFN regulatory factor 9 (IRF9) is a key component of ISGF3, so the inhibition of IRF9 would compromise host's type I IFN responses, which would weaken host antiviral activity. In this study, to increase the replication of VHSV, we generated IRF9 knockout Epithelioma papulosum cyprini (EPC) cells using a CRISPR/Cas9 vector that contains an EPC cell's U6 promoter-driven guide RNA cassette (targeting IRF9 gene) and a Cas9 expressing cassette. In the clones of IRF9 knockout EPC cells, there were no increase in ISG15 gene by poly I:C, and in Mx1 gene by both poly I:C and VHSV. Interestingly, although the increased folds were conspicuously lower than control EPC cells, the expression of ISG 15 gene in all the IRF9 knockout clones was significantly increased by VHSV infection. Control EPC cells pre-treated with poly I:C did not show any CPE when infected with VHSV, however, IRF9 knockout EPC cells showed CPE by VHSV infection in spite of being pretreated with poly I:C. The replication of VHSV in IRF9 knockout EPC cells was significantly faster and higher than that in control EPC cells indicating that the IRF9 knockout-mediated decrease of type I IFN responses allowed VHSV to replicate efficiently. Considering an economical aspect for the production of fish vaccines, the present IRF9 knockout EPC cells can be used to get higher-titered VHSV.HighlightsIRF9 gene knockout EPC cells were produced using a CRISPR/Cas9 vector.Knockout of IRF9 gene decreased the expression of ISG15 and Mx1 genes.Decrease of type I IFN response allowed VHSV to replicate efficiently.The present IRF9 knockout EPC cells can be used to get higher titered VHSV.

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