Identification of the IFITM3 gene as an inhibitor of hepatitis C viral translation in a stable STAT1 cell line

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SUMMARY.To investigate the functions of signal transducers and activators of transcription 1 (STAT1)-induced anti-hepatitis C viral (HCV) effects, a stable Huh7.5 cell line (Huh7.5-STAT1ER) was established that constitutively expresses a fusion protein (STAT1ER) of STAT1 and the mouse oestrogen receptor (ER), which forms STAT1ER homodimers after 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-HT) treatment. This inducible and cytokine/receptor-independent STAT1 activation system allowed us to investigate the anti-HCV effects of STAT1ER activation after inducing IFN-stimulated gene (ISG) expression. The anti-HCV effects of dimerized STAT1ER fusion protein were determined by real-time PCR in a time-dependent fashion post-HCV (JFH-1) infection. HCV (JFH-1) RNA decreased 48% at 72 h after 4-HT treatment. To distinguish the inhibitory effects of STAT1ER activation on HCV RNA replication or HCV internal ribosomal entry site (IRES)–mediated translation, a dicistronic pRL-HL construct was used in the studies. Both cellular (Cap-dependent) and HCV IRES–mediated (Cap-independent) translation were decreased by 63% and 57% at 72 h post-STAT1ER activation in the STAT1ER cell line. In our previous studies, interferon-induced transmembrane protein 3 [(IFITM3) (1-8U)] was found to inhibit HCV RNA replication. Subsequently, elevated expression of the 1-8U gene was confirmed by Western blotting in the Huh7.5-STAT1ER cell line. To further investigate the 1-8U function with both in vivo and in vitro studies, the 1-8U gene was found to suppress cellular and HCV IRES–mediated translation.

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