A MicroRNA Screen Identifies the Wnt Signaling Pathway as a Regulator of the Interferon Response during Flavivirus Infection.J Virol. 2017 04 15; 91(8)JV
The impact of mosquito-borne flavivirus infections worldwide is significant, and many critical aspects of these viruses' biology, including virus-host interactions, host cell requirements for replication, and how virus-host interactions impact pathology, remain to be fully understood. The recent reemergence and spread of flaviviruses, including dengue virus (DENV), West Nile virus (WNV), and Zika virus (ZIKV), highlight the importance of performing basic research on this important group of pathogens. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, noncoding RNAs that modulate gene expression posttranscriptionally and have been demonstrated to regulate a broad range of cellular processes. Our research is focused on identifying pro- and antiflaviviral miRNAs as a means of characterizing cellular pathways that support or limit viral replication. We have screened a library of known human miRNA mimics for their effect on the replication of three flaviviruses, DENV, WNV, and Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), using a high-content immunofluorescence screen. Several families of miRNAs were identified as inhibiting multiple flaviviruses, including the miRNA miR-34, miR-15, and miR-517 families. Members of the miR-34 family, which have been extensively characterized for their ability to repress Wnt/β-catenin signaling, demonstrated strong antiflaviviral effects, and this inhibitory activity extended to other viruses, including ZIKV, alphaviruses, and herpesviruses. Previous research suggested a possible link between the Wnt and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. Therefore, we investigated the role of type I IFN induction in the antiviral effects of the miR-34 family and confirmed that these miRNAs potentiate interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) phosphorylation and translocation to the nucleus, the induction of IFN-responsive genes, and the release of type I IFN from transfected cells. We further demonstrate that the intersection between the Wnt and IFN signaling pathways occurs at the point of glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β)-TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1) binding, inducing TBK1 to phosphorylate IRF3 and initiate downstream IFN signaling. In this way, we have identified a novel cellular signaling network with a critical role in regulating the replication of multiple virus families. These findings highlight the opportunities for using miRNAs as tools to discover and characterize unique cellular factors involved in supporting or limiting virus replication, opening up new avenues for antiviral research.IMPORTANCE MicroRNAs are a class of small regulatory RNAs that modulate cellular processes through the posttranscriptional repression of multiple transcripts. We hypothesized that individual miRNAs may be capable of inhibiting viral replication through their effects on host proteins or pathways. To test this, we performed a high-content screen for miRNAs that inhibit the replication of three medically relevant members of the flavivirus family: West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, and dengue virus 2. The results of this screen identify multiple miRNAs that inhibit one or more of these viruses. Extensive follow-up on members of the miR-34 family of miRNAs, which are active against all three viruses as well as the closely related Zika virus, demonstrated that miR-34 functions through increasing the infected cell's ability to respond to infection through the interferon-based innate immune pathway. Our results not only add to the knowledge of how viruses interact with cellular pathways but also provide a basis for more extensive data mining by providing a comprehensive list of miRNAs capable of inhibiting flavivirus replication. Finally, the miRNAs themselves or cellular pathways identified as modulating virus infection may prove to be novel candidates for the development of therapeutic interventions.