Publications by authors named "Katharina Esser-Nobis"

19 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 for more than one year - kinetics and persistence of detection are predominantly determined by avidity progression and test design.

J Clin Virol 2022 01 4;146:105052. Epub 2021 Dec 4.

University Hospital Frankfurt - Department of Infectious Diseases and HIV, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Background: Antibody detection of SARS-CoV-2 requires an understanding of its variation, course, and duration.

Methods: Antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 was evaluated over 5-430 days on 828 samples across COVID-19 severity levels, for total antibody (TAb), IgG, IgA, IgM, neutralizing antibody (NAb), antibody avidity, and for receptor-binding-domain (RBD), spike (S), or nucleoprotein (N). Specificity was determined on 676 pre-pandemic samples.

Results: Sensitivity at 30-60 days post symptom onset (pso) for TAb-S/RBD, TAb-N, IgG-S, IgG-N, IgA-S, IgM-RBD, and NAb was 96.6%, 99.5%, 89.7%, 94.3%, 80.9%, 76.9% and 92.8%, respectively. Follow-up 430 days pso revealed: TAb-S/RBD increased slightly (100.0%); TAb-N decreased slightly (97.1%); IgG-S and IgA-S decreased moderately (81.4%, 65.7%); NAb remained positive (94.3%), slightly decreasing in activity after 300 days; there was correlation with IgG-S (Rs = 0.88) and IgA-S (Rs = 0.71); IgG-N decreased significantly from day 120 (15.7%); IgM-RBD dropped after 30-60 days (22.9%). High antibody avidity developed against S/RBD steadily with time in 94.3% of patients after 430 days. This correlated with persistent antibody detection depending on antibody-binding efficiency of the test design. Severe COVID-19 correlated with earlier and higher antibody response, mild COVID-19 was heterogeneous with a wide range of antibody reactivities. Specificity of the tests was ≥99%, except for IgA (96%).

Conclusion: Sensitivity of anti-SARS-CoV-2 assays was determined by test design, target antigen, antibody avidity, and COVID-19 severity. Sustained antibody detection was mainly determined by avidity progression for RBD and S. Testing by TAb and for S/RBD provided the highest sensitivity and longest detection duration of 14 months so far.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcv.2021.105052DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8642248PMC
January 2022

Endomembrane targeting of human OAS1 p46 augments antiviral activity.

Elife 2021 08 3;10. Epub 2021 Aug 3.

Department of Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, United States.

Many host RNA sensors are positioned in the cytosol to detect viral RNA during infection. However, most positive-strand RNA viruses replicate within a modified organelle co-opted from intracellular membranes of the endomembrane system, which shields viral products from cellular innate immune sensors. Targeting innate RNA sensors to the endomembrane system may enhance their ability to sense RNA generated by viruses that use these compartments for replication. Here, we reveal that an isoform of oligoadenylate synthetase 1, OAS1 p46, is prenylated and targeted to the endomembrane system. Membrane localization of OAS1 p46 confers enhanced access to viral replication sites and results in increased antiviral activity against a subset of RNA viruses including flaviviruses, picornaviruses, and SARS-CoV-2. Finally, our human genetic analysis shows that the splice-site SNP responsible for production of the OAS1 p46 isoform correlates with protection from severe COVID-19. This study highlights the importance of endomembrane targeting for the antiviral specificity of OAS1 and suggests that early control of SARS-CoV-2 replication through OAS1 p46 is an important determinant of COVID-19 severity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.71047DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8357416PMC
August 2021

De novo design of potent and resilient hACE2 decoys to neutralize SARS-CoV-2.

Science 2020 12 5;370(6521):1208-1214. Epub 2020 Nov 5.

Neoleukin Therapeutics Inc., Seattle, WA, USA.

We developed a de novo protein design strategy to swiftly engineer decoys for neutralizing pathogens that exploit extracellular host proteins to infect the cell. Our pipeline allowed the design, validation, and optimization of de novo human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) decoys to neutralize severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The best monovalent decoy, CTC-445.2, bound with low nanomolar affinity and high specificity to the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein. Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) showed that the design is accurate and can simultaneously bind to all three RBDs of a single spike protein. Because the decoy replicates the spike protein target interface in hACE2, it is intrinsically resilient to viral mutational escape. A bivalent decoy, CTC-445.2d, showed ~10-fold improvement in binding. CTC-445.2d potently neutralized SARS-CoV-2 infection of cells in vitro, and a single intranasal prophylactic dose of decoy protected Syrian hamsters from a subsequent lethal SARS-CoV-2 challenge.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.abe0075DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7920261PMC
December 2020

design of ACE2 protein decoys to neutralize SARS-CoV-2.

bioRxiv 2020 Aug 3. Epub 2020 Aug 3.

There is an urgent need for the ability to rapidly develop effective countermeasures for emerging biological threats, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We have developed a generalized computational design strategy to rapidly engineer proteins that precisely recapitulate the protein surface targeted by biological agents, like viruses, to gain entry into cells. The designed proteins act as decoys that block cellular entry and aim to be resilient to viral mutational escape. Using our novel platform, in less than ten weeks, we engineered, validated, and optimized protein decoys of human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2), the membrane-associated protein that SARS-CoV-2 exploits to infect cells. Our optimized designs are hyperstable de novo proteins (∼18-37 kDa), have high affinity for the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) and can potently inhibit the virus infection and replication in vitro. Future refinements to our strategy can enable the rapid development of other therapeutic protein decoys, not limited to neutralizing viruses, but to combat any agent that explicitly interacts with cell surface proteins to cause disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.03.231340DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7418730PMC
August 2020

Cell type- and replication stage-specific influenza virus responses in vivo.

PLoS Pathog 2020 08 13;16(8):e1008760. Epub 2020 Aug 13.

Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics Graduate Program, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN, United States of America.

Influenza A viruses (IAVs) remain a significant global health burden. Activation of the innate immune response is important for controlling early virus replication and spread. It is unclear how early IAV replication events contribute to immune detection. Additionally, while many cell types in the lung can be infected, it is not known if all cell types contribute equally to establish the antiviral state in the host. Here, we use single-cycle influenza A viruses (scIAVs) to characterize the early immune response to IAV in vitro and in vivo. We found that the magnitude of virus replication contributes to antiviral gene expression within infected cells prior to the induction of a global response. We also developed a scIAV that is only capable of undergoing primary transcription, the earliest stage of virus replication. Using this tool, we uncovered replication stage-specific responses in vitro and in vivo. Using several innate immune receptor knockout cell lines, we identify RIG-I as the predominant antiviral detector of primary virus transcription and amplified replication in vitro. Through a Cre-inducible reporter mouse, we used scIAVs expressing Cre-recombinase to characterize cell type-specific responses in vivo. Individual cell types upregulate unique sets of antiviral genes in response to both primary virus transcription and amplified replication. We also identified antiviral genes that are only upregulated in response to direct infection. Altogether, these data offer insight into the early mechanisms of antiviral gene activation during influenza A infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008760DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7447048PMC
August 2020

Spatiotemporal dynamics of innate immune signaling via RIG-I-like receptors.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 07 22;117(27):15778-15788. Epub 2020 Jun 22.

Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease, Department of Immunology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98109

RIG-I, MDA5, and LGP2 comprise the RIG-I-like receptors (RLRs). RIG-I and MDA5 are essential pathogen recognition receptors sensing viral infections while LGP2 has been described as both RLR cofactor and negative regulator. After sensing and binding to viral RNA, including double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), RIG-I and MDA5 undergo cytosol-to-membrane relocalization to bind and signal through the MAVS adaptor protein on intracellular membranes, thus directing downstream activation of IRF3 and innate immunity. Here, we report examination of the dynamic subcellular localization of all three RLRs within the intracellular response to dsRNA and RNA virus infection. Observations from high resolution biochemical fractionation and electron microscopy, coupled with analysis of protein interactions and IRF3 activation, show that, in resting cells, microsome but not mitochondrial fractions harbor the central components to initiate innate immune signaling. LGP2 interacts with MAVS in microsomes, blocking the RIG-I/MAVS interaction. Remarkably, in response to dsRNA treatment or RNA virus infection, LGP2 is rapidly released from MAVS and redistributed to mitochondria, temporally correlating with IRF3 activation. We reveal that IRF3 activation does not take place on mitochondria but instead occurs at endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-derived membranes. Our observations suggest ER-derived membranes as key RLR signaling platforms controlled through inhibitory actions of LGP2 binding to MAVS wherein LGP2 translocation to mitochondria releases MAVS inhibition to facilitate RLR-mediated signaling of innate immunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1921861117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7354926PMC
July 2020

Flavivirus Nonstructural Protein NS5 Dysregulates HSP90 to Broadly Inhibit JAK/STAT Signaling.

Cells 2020 04 7;9(4). Epub 2020 Apr 7.

Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease, Department of Immunology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.

Pathogenic flaviviruses antagonize host cell Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK/STAT) signaling downstream of interferons α/β. Here, we show that flaviviruses inhibit JAK/STAT signaling induced by a wide range of cytokines beyond interferon, including interleukins. This broad inhibition was mapped to viral nonstructural protein 5 (NS5) binding to cellular heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), resulting in reduced Janus kinase-HSP90 interaction and thus destabilization of unchaperoned JAKs (and other kinase clients) of HSP90 during infection by , West Nile virus, and Japanese encephalitis virus. Our studies implicate viral dysregulation of HSP90 and the JAK/STAT pathway as a critical determinant of cytokine signaling control during flavivirus infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells9040899DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7226784PMC
April 2020

STING is required for host defense against neuropathological West Nile virus infection.

PLoS Pathog 2019 08 15;15(8):e1007899. Epub 2019 Aug 15.

Department of Global Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States of America.

West Nile Virus (WNV), an emerging and re-emerging RNA virus, is the leading source of arboviral encephalitic morbidity and mortality in the United States. WNV infections are acutely controlled by innate immunity in peripheral tissues outside of the central nervous system (CNS) but WNV can evade the actions of interferon (IFN) to facilitate CNS invasion, causing encephalitis, encephalomyelitis, and death. Recent studies indicate that STimulator of INterferon Gene (STING), canonically known for initiating a type I IFN production and innate immune response to cytosolic DNA, is required for host defense against neurotropic RNA viruses. We evaluated the role of STING in host defense to control WNV infection and pathology in a murine model of infection. When challenged with WNV, STING knock out (-/-) mice displayed increased morbidity and mortality compared to wild type (WT) mice. Virologic analysis and assessment of STING activation revealed that STING signaling was not required for control of WNV in the spleen nor was WNV sufficient to mediate canonical STING activation in vitro. However, STING-/- mice exhibited a clear trend of increased viral load and virus dissemination in the CNS. We found that STING-/- mice exhibited increased and prolonged neurological signs compared to WT mice. Pathological examination revealed increased lesions, mononuclear cellular infiltration and neuronal death in the CNS of STING-/- mice, with sustained pathology after viral clearance. We found that STING was required in bone marrow derived macrophages for early control of WNV replication and innate immune activation. In vivo, STING-/- mice developed an aberrant T cell response in both the spleen and brain during WNV infection that linked with increased and sustained CNS pathology compared to WT mice. Our findings demonstrate that STING plays a critical role in immune programming for the control of neurotropic WNV infection and CNS disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1007899DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6695101PMC
August 2019

Comparative Analysis of African and Asian Lineage-Derived Zika Virus Strains Reveals Differences in Activation of and Sensitivity to Antiviral Innate Immunity.

J Virol 2019 07 14;93(13). Epub 2019 Jun 14.

Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease, Department of Immunology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA

In recent years, Asian lineage Zika virus (ZIKV) strains emerged to cause pandemic outbreaks associated with a high rate of congenital ZIKV syndrome (CZVS). The reasons for the enhanced spread and severe disease caused by newly emerging strains are not fully understood. Here we compared viral sequences, viral replication, and innate immune signaling induction of three different ZIKV strains derived from African and Asian lineages and West Nile virus, another flavivirus. We found pronounced differences in activation of innate immune signaling and inhibition of viral replication across ZIKV strains. The newly emerged Asian ZIKV strain Brazil Fortaleza 2015, which is associated with a higher rate of neurodevelopmental disorders like microcephaly, induced much weaker and delayed innate immune signaling in infected cells. However, superinfection studies to assess control of innate immune signaling induced by Sendai virus argue against an active block of IRF3 activation by the Brazilian strain of ZIKV and rather suggest an evasion of detection by host cell pattern recognition receptors. Compared to the Asian strain FSS13025 isolated in Cambodia, both ZIKV Uganda MR766 and ZIKV Brazil Fortaleza appear less sensitive to the interferon-induced antiviral response. ZIKV infection studies of cells lacking the different RIG-I-like receptors identified RIG-I as the major cytosolic pattern recognition receptor for detection of ZIKV. Zika Virus (ZIKV), discovered in 1947, is divided into African and Asian lineages. Pandemic outbreaks caused by currently emerging Asian lineage strains are accompanied by high rates of neurological disorders and exemplify the global health burden associated with this virus. Here we compared virological and innate immunological aspects of two ZIKV strains from the Asian lineage, an emerging Brazilian strain and a less-pathogenic Cambodian strain, and the prototypic African lineage ZIKV strain from Uganda. Compared to the replication of other ZIKV strains, the replication of ZIKV Brazil was less sensitive to the antiviral actions of interferon (IFN), while infection with this strain induced weaker and delayed innate immune responses Our data suggest that ZIKV Brazil directs a passive strategy of innate immune evasion that is reminiscent of a stealth virus. Such strain-specific properties likely contribute to differential pathogenesis and should be taken into consideration when choosing virus strains for future molecular studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.00640-19DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6580957PMC
July 2019

Interleukin-1β Induces mtDNA Release to Activate Innate Immune Signaling via cGAS-STING.

Mol Cell 2019 05 2;74(4):801-815.e6. Epub 2019 Apr 2.

Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease, Department of Immunology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98109, USA. Electronic address:

Interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) is a pleiotropic mediator of inflammation and is produced in response to a wide range of stimuli. During infection, IL-1β production occurs in parallel with the onset of innate antimicrobial defenses, but the contribution of IL-1β signaling to cell-intrinsic immunity is not defined. Here, we report that exogenous IL-1β induces interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) activation in human myeloid, fibroblast, and epithelial cells. IRF3 activation by IL-1β is dependent upon the DNA-sensing pathway adaptor, stimulator of interferon genes (STING), through the recognition of cytosolic mtDNA by cyclic guanosine monophosphate (GMP)-AMP synthase (cGAS). IL-1β treatment results in interferon (IFN) production and activation of IFN signaling to direct a potent innate immune response that restricts dengue virus infection. This study identifies a new function for IL-1β in the onset or enhancement of cell-intrinsic immunity, with important implications for cGAS-STING in integrating inflammatory and microbial cues for host defense.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molcel.2019.02.038DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6596306PMC
May 2019

Secretion of Hepatitis C Virus Replication Intermediates Reduces Activation of Toll-Like Receptor 3 in Hepatocytes.

Gastroenterology 2018 06 11;154(8):2237-2251.e16. Epub 2018 Mar 11.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections most often result in chronic outcomes, although the virus constantly produces replication intermediates, in particular double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), representing potent inducers of innate immunity. We aimed to characterize the fate of HCV dsRNA in hepatocyte cultures to identify mechanisms contributing to viral persistence in presence of an active innate immune response.

Methods: We analyzed hepatocyte-based culture models for HCV for induction of innate immunity, secretion of virus positive- or negative-strand RNA, and viral replication using different quantification methods and microscopy techniques. Expression of pattern recognition receptors was reconstituted in hepatoma cells by lentiviral transduction.

Results: HCV-infected cells secrete substantial amounts of virus positive- and negative-strand RNAs in extracellular vesicles (EVs), toward the apical and basolateral domain of hepatocytes. Secretion of negative-strand RNA was independent from virus production, and viral RNA secreted in EVs contained higher relative amounts of negative-strands, indicating that mostly virus dsRNA is released. A substantial part of viral replication complexes and dsRNA was found in the endosomal compartment and multivesicular bodies, indicating that secretion of HCV replication intermediates is mediated by the exosomal pathway. Block of vesicle release in HCV-positive cells increased intracellular dsRNA levels and increased activation of toll-like receptor 3, inhibiting HCV replication.

Conclusions: Using hepatocyte-based culture models for HCV, we found a portion of HCV dsRNA intermediates to be released from infected cells in EVs, which reduces activation of toll-like receptor 3. This represents a novel mechanism how HCV evades host immune responses, potentially contributing to viral persistence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2018.03.020DOI Listing
June 2018

Tuning a cellular lipid kinase activity adapts hepatitis C virus to replication in cell culture.

Nat Microbiol 2016 12 19;2:16247. Epub 2016 Dec 19.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany.

With a single exception, all isolates of hepatitis C virus (HCV) require adaptive mutations to replicate efficiently in cell culture. Here, we show that a major class of adaptive mutations regulates the activity of a cellular lipid kinase, phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase IIIα (PI4KA). HCV needs to stimulate PI4KA to create a permissive phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate-enriched membrane microenvironment in the liver and in primary human hepatocytes (PHHs). In contrast, in Huh7 hepatoma cells, the virus must acquire loss-of-function mutations that prevent PI4KA overactivation. This adaptive mechanism is necessitated by increased PI4KA levels in Huh7 cells compared with PHHs, and is conserved across HCV genotypes. PI4KA-specific inhibitors promote replication of unadapted viral isolates and allow efficient replication of patient-derived virus in cell culture. In summary, this study has uncovered a long-sought mechanism of HCV cell-culture adaptation and demonstrates how a virus can adapt to changes in a cellular environment associated with tumorigenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.247DOI Listing
December 2016

Type I and type II interferon responses in two human liver cell lines (Huh-7 and HuH6).

Genom Data 2016 Mar 28;7:166-70. Epub 2015 Dec 28.

Research Group "Dynamics of early viral infection and the innate antiviral response", Division Virus-associated carcinogenesis (F170), German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.

Most studies investigating the biology of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) have used the human hepatoma cell line Huh-7 or subclones thereof, as these are the most permissive cell lines for HCV infection and replication. Other cell lines also support replication of HCV, most notably the human hepatoblastoma cell line HuH6. HCV replication in cell culture is generally highly sensitive to interferons (IFNs) and differences in the IFN-mediated inhibition of virus replication may reflect alterations in the IFN-induced antiviral response inherent to different host cells. For example, HCV replication is highly sensitive to IFN-γ treatment in Huh-7, but not in HuH6 cells. In this study, we used microarray-based gene expression profiling to compare the response of Huh-7 and HuH6 cells to stimulation with IFN-α and IFN-γ. Furthermore, we determined whether the resistance of HCV replication in HuH6 cells can be linked to differences in the expression profile of IFN-regulated genes. Although both cells lines responded to IFNs with rapid changes in gene expression, thereby demonstrating functional type I and type II signaling pathways, differences were observed for a number of genes. Raw and normalized expression data have been deposited in GEO under accession number GSE68927.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gdata.2015.12.017DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4778650PMC
March 2016

The cyclophilin-inhibitor alisporivir stimulates antigen presentation thereby promoting antigen-specific CD8(+) T cell activation.

J Hepatol 2016 06 26;64(6):1305-14. Epub 2016 Feb 26.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Cyclophilin-inhibitors have potent antiviral activity against Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and are promising candidates for broad-spectrum antiviral therapy. Cyclosporine A (CsA) acts immunosuppressive by blocking T cell activation and antigen presentation. Alisporivir, a non-immunosuppressive CsA analog in clinical development, does not inhibit T cell activation. In this study we explored the impact of alisporivir on antigen presentation.

Methods: Hepatoma cells endogenously expressing the epitope-restricting major histocompatibility complex-class I (MHC-I) allele HLA-A2 and constitutively expressing a viral antigen were established to study the impact of cyclophilin-inhibitors on antigen presentation. Antigen-specific CD8(+) T cell activation and MHC-I surface expression were measured to quantify antigen presentation.

Results: Our work establishes a novel cell culture model to study antigen presentation in liver-derived cells. Authentic regulation of antigen presentation was ensured by the action of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Alisporivir pretreatment stimulated antigen presentation by hepatoma target cells, leading to enhancement of antigen-specific CD8(+) T cell activation by 40%. Alisporivir, as well as a panel of other cyclophilin-inhibitors, induced an increase of MHC-I and beta-2 microglobulin on the surface of several cell lines. The drug neither enhanced MHC-I transcript or protein levels nor affected surface expression of other proteins or protein trafficking in general. Proteasome-inhibitors completely blocked the alisporivir-directed enhancement of surface MHC-I, suggesting an influence of the drug on peptide-availability.

Conclusions: Alisporivir stimulates antigen presentation by inducing enhanced MHC-I surface expression, thereby promoting antigen-specific CD8(+) T cell activation. This immunostimulatory function might further contribute to the antiviral activity of non-immunosuppressive cyclophilin-inhibitors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2016.02.027DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7172366PMC
June 2016

DDX60L Is an Interferon-Stimulated Gene Product Restricting Hepatitis C Virus Replication in Cell Culture.

J Virol 2015 Oct 12;89(20):10548-68. Epub 2015 Aug 12.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

Unlabelled: All major types of interferon (IFN) efficiently inhibit hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication in vitro and in vivo. Remarkably, HCV replication is not sensitive to IFN-γ in the hepatoma cell line Huh6, despite an intact signaling pathway. We performed transcriptome analyses between Huh6 and Huh-7 cells to identify effector genes of the IFN-γ response and thereby identified the DExD/H box helicase DEAD box polypeptide 60-like (DDX60L) as a restriction factor of HCV replication. DDX60L and its homolog DEAD box polypeptide 60 (DDX60) were both induced upon viral infection and IFN treatment in primary human hepatocytes. However, exclusively DDX60L knockdown increased HCV replication in Huh-7 cells and rescued HCV replication from type II IFN as well as type I and III IFN treatment, suggesting that DDX60L is an important effector protein of the innate immune response against HCV. In contrast, we found no impact of DDX60L on replication of hepatitis A virus. DDX60L protein was detectable only upon strong ectopic overexpression, displayed a broad cytoplasmic distribution, but caused cytopathic effects under these conditions. DDX60L knockdown did not alter interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) induction after IFN treatment but inhibited HCV replication upon ectopic expression, suggesting that it is a direct effector of the innate immune response. It most likely inhibits viral RNA replication, since we found neither impact of DDX60L on translation or stability of HCV subgenomic replicons nor additional impact on assembly of infectious virus. Similar to DDX60, DDX60L had a moderate impact on RIG-I dependent activation of innate immunity, suggesting additional functions in the sensing of viral RNA.

Importance: Interferons induce a plethora of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), which are our first line of defense against viral infections. In addition, IFNs have been used in antiviral therapy, in particular against the human pathogen hepatitis C virus (HCV); still, their mechanism of action is not well understood, since diverse, overlapping sets of antagonistic effector ISGs target viruses with different biologies. Our work identifies DDX60L as a novel factor that inhibits replication of HCV. DDX60L expression is regulated similarly to that of its homolog DDX60, but our data suggest that it has distinct functions, since we found no contribution of DDX60 in combatting HCV replication. The identification of novel components of the innate immune response contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the complex mechanisms governing antiviral defense.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.01297-15DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4580188PMC
October 2015

Novel perspectives for hepatitis A virus therapy revealed by comparative analysis of hepatitis C virus and hepatitis A virus RNA replication.

Hepatology 2015 Aug 20;62(2):397-408. Epub 2015 May 20.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Unlabelled: Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are two positive-strand RNA viruses sharing a similar biology, but causing opposing infection outcomes, with HAV always being cleared and HCV establishing persistence in the majority of infections. To gain deeper insight into determinants of replication, persistence, and treatment, we established a homogenous cell-culture model allowing a thorough comparison of RNA replication of both viruses. By screening different human liver-derived cell lines with subgenomic reporter replicons of HAV as well as of different HCV genotypes, we found that Huh7-Lunet cells supported HAV- and HCV-RNA replication with similar efficiency and limited interference between both replicases. HAV and HCV replicons were similarly sensitive to interferon (IFN), but differed in their ability to establish persistent replication in cell culture. In contrast to HCV, HAV replicated independently from microRNA-122 and phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase IIIα and β (PI4KIII). Both viruses were efficiently inhibited by cyclosporin A and NIM811, a nonimmunosuppressive analog thereof, suggesting an overlapping dependency on cyclophilins for replication. However, analysis of a broader set of inhibitors revealed that, in contrast to HCV, HAV does not depend on cyclophilin A, but rather on adenosine-triphosphate-binding cassette transporters and FK506-binding proteins. Finally, silibinin, but not its modified intravenous formulation, efficiently inhibited HAV genome replication in vitro, suggesting oral silibinin as a potential therapeutic option for HAV infections.

Conclusion: We established a cell-culture model enabling comparative studies on RNA replication of HAV and HCV in a homogenous cellular background with comparable replication efficiency. We thereby identified new host cell targets and potential treatment options for HAV and set the ground for future studies to unravel determinants of clearance and persistence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.27847DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7165973PMC
August 2015

Cyclosporin A inhibits hepatitis B and hepatitis D virus entry by cyclophilin-independent interference with the NTCP receptor.

J Hepatol 2014 Apr 1;60(4):723-31. Epub 2013 Dec 1.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, University Hospital Heidelberg, D 69120 Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis D are global health problems caused by the human hepatitis B and hepatitis D virus. The myristoylated preS1 domain of the large envelope protein mediates specific binding to hepatocytes by sodium taurocholate co-transporting polypeptide (NTCP). NTCP is a bile salt transporter known to be inhibited by cyclosporin A. This study aimed to characterize the effect of cyclosporin A on HBV/HDV infection.

Methods: HepaRG cells, primary human hepatocytes, and susceptible NTCP-expressing hepatoma cell lines were applied for infection experiments. The mode of action of cyclosporin A was studied by comparing the effect of different inhibitors, cyclophilin A/B/C-silenced cell lines as well as NTCP variants and mutants. Bile salt transporter and HBV receptor functions were investigated by taurocholate uptake and quantification of HBVpreS binding.

Results: Cyclosporin A inhibited hepatitis B and D virus infections during and--less pronounced--prior to virus inoculation. Binding of HBVpreS to NTCP was blocked by cyclosporin A concentrations at 8 μM. An NTCP variant deficient in HBVpreS binding but competent for bile salt transport showed resistance to cyclosporin A. Silencing of cyclophilins A/B/C did not abrogate transporter and receptor inhibition. In contrast, tacrolimus, a cyclophilin-independent calcineurin inhibitor, was inactive.

Conclusions: HBV and HDV entry via sodium taurocholate co-transporting polypeptide is inhibited by cyclosporin A. The interaction between the drug and the viral receptor is direct and overlaps with a functional binding site of the preS1 domain, which mediates viral entry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2013.11.022DOI Listing
April 2014

Analysis of hepatitis C virus resistance to silibinin in vitro and in vivo points to a novel mechanism involving nonstructural protein 4B.

Hepatology 2013 Mar 7;57(3):953-63. Epub 2013 Feb 7.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Unlabelled: Intravenous silibinin (SIL) is an approved therapeutic that has recently been applied to patients with chronic hepatitis C, successfully clearing hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in some patients even in monotherapy. Previous studies suggested multiple antiviral mechanisms of SIL; however, the dominant mode of action has not been determined. We first analyzed the impact of SIL on replication of subgenomic replicons from different HCV genotypes in vitro and found a strong inhibition of RNA replication for genotype 1a and genotype 1b. In contrast, RNA replication and infection of genotype 2a were minimally affected by SIL. To identify the viral target of SIL we analyzed resistance to SIL in vitro and in vivo. Selection for drug resistance in cell culture identified a mutation in HCV nonstructural protein (NS) 4B conferring partial resistance to SIL. This was corroborated by sequence analyses of HCV from a liver transplant recipient experiencing viral breakthrough under SIL monotherapy. Again, we identified distinct mutations affecting highly conserved amino acid residues within NS4B, which mediated phenotypic SIL resistance also in vitro. Analyses of chimeric viral genomes suggest that SIL might target an interaction between NS4B and NS3/4A. Ultrastructural studies revealed changes in the morphology of viral membrane alterations upon SIL treatment of a susceptible genotype 1b isolate, but not of a resistant NS4B mutant or genotype 2a, indicating that SIL might interfere with the formation of HCV replication sites.

Conclusion: Mutations conferring partial resistance to SIL treatment in vivo and in cell culture argue for a mechanism involving NS4B. This novel mode of action renders SIL an attractive candidate for combination therapies with other directly acting antiviral drugs, particularly in difficult-to-treat patient cohorts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.26260DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3593759PMC
March 2013
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