Grouper STAT1a is involved in antiviral immune response against iridovirus and nodavirus infection

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Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 1 (STAT1) has been demonstrated to function as a critical mediator in multiple cell processes, such as cell proliferation, cell death, and innate immune response. Interestingly, two orthologues of human STAT1, including STAT1a and STAT1b genes have been identified in different fish. However, the detailed roles of fish STAT1a in virus replication still remained largely uncertain. Here, we cloned a STAT1a from orange-spotted grouper Epinephelus coioides (EcSTAT1a) and characterized its roles during fish virus infection. EcSTAT1a encoded a 751-aa peptide which shared 97% and 93% identity to STAT1 from mandarin fish (Siniperca chuatsi) and Malabar grouper (Epinephelus malabaricus), respectively. Amino acid alignment analysis showed that EcSTAT1a contained a STAT-int domain, a STAT-alpha domain, a STAT-bind domain (DNA binding domain), a SH2 domain and a STAT1-TAZ2 bind domain. In examined tissues from healthy grouper, the expression of EcSTAT1a was predominant in intestine, gill and liver. In grouper cells, the relative expression levels of EcSTAT1a was significantly increased during red-spotted grouper nervous necrosis virus (RGNNV) or Singapore grouper iridovirus (SGIV) infection. Under fluorescence microscopy, we found that EcSTAT1a mainly localized in the cytoplasm. The ectopic expression of EcSTAT1a in vitro significantly delayed the cytopathic effect (CPE) progression evoked by RGNNV and SGIV. Further studies showed that the expression levels of viral genes, including SGIV major capsid protein (MCP), VP19, ICP-18, LITAF and RGNNV coat protein (CP), RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) were all significantly reduced in EcSTAT1a overexpressing cells compared to the control vector transfected cells, suggested that EcSTAT1a exerted antiviral activity against iridovirus and nodavirus. Furthermore, overexpression of EcSTAT1a significantly increased the expression of interferon related cytokines or effectors and pro-inflammatory factors. Together, our results elucidated that EcSTAT1a might function as a critical antiviral factor by regulating the host interferon immune and inflammation response.

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