Human astroviruses (HAstVs), non-enveloped RNA viruses with positive-sense RNA genomes, are an important cause of acute gastroenteritis in young children, although the processes that produce infectious virions are not clearly defined. To track the viral replication complex (RC) upon HAstV1 infection, the subcellular distribution of double-stranded (ds) RNA and of ORF1b, a viral RNA polymerase, was examined by immunocytochemistry. Foci that were positive for dsRNA and for ORF1b were co-localized, and both foci were also co-localized with resident proteins of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Focusing on the association between the HAstV RC and ER, we examined the expression of unfolded protein response (UPR) markers and found that targets of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2a (eIF2a)-activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4), including CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein homologous protein (CHOP), a proapoptotic transcription factor, were upregulated at the late phase in HAstV-infected cells. Consistently, eIF2a was phosphorylated at the late phase of HAstV infection. The formation of foci resembling stress granules, another known downstream response to eIF2a phosphorylation, was also observed at the same period. Phosphorylation of eIF2a was attenuated in protein kinase R (PKR)-knockdown cells, suggesting that, unlike the canonical ER stress response, PKR was involved in eIF2a phosphorylation in response to HAstV infection. Studies have indicated that immature HAstV capsid protein is processed by caspases, and caspase cleavage is integral to particle release. Inhibition of CHOP upregulation reduced caspase activation and the release of HAstV RNA from cells during HAstV infection. Our results suggest that the eIF2a–ATF4–CHOP pathway participates in HAstV propagation.
- Eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2a (eIF2a)
- Unfolded protein response
ASJC Scopus subject areas