Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a mucosa-restricted virus that is a leading cause of epidemic respiratory tract infections in children. RSV replication is a potent activator of the epithelial-cell genomic response, influencing the expression of a spectrum of cellular pathways, including proinflammatory chemokines of the CC, CXC, and CX3C subclasses. Ribavirin (1-β-D-ribofuranosyl-1,2,4-triazole-3-carboxamide) is a nontoxic antiviral agent currently licensed for the treatment of severe RSV lower respiratory tract infections. Because ribavirin treatment reduces the cytopathic effect in infected cells, we used high-density microarrays to investigate the hypothesis that ribavirin modifies the virus-induced epithelial genomic response to replicating virus. Ribavirin treatment administered in concentrations of 10 to 100 μg/ml potently inhibited RSV transcription, thereby reducing the level of RSV N transcripts to ∼13% of levels in nontreated cells. We observed that in both the absence and the presence of ribavirin, RSV infection induced global alterations in the host epithelial cell, affecting ∼49% of the ∼6,650 expressed genes detectable by the microarray. Ribavirin influences the expression of only 7.5% of the RSV-inducible genes (total number of genes, 272), suggesting that the epithelial-cell genetic program initiated by viral infection is independent of high-level RSV replication. Hierarchical clustering of the ribavirin-regulated genes identified four expression patterns. In one group, ribavirin inhibited the expression of the RSV-inducible CC chemokines MIP-1α and -1β, which are important in RSV-induced pulmonary pathology, and interferon (IFN), a cytokine important in the mucosal immune response. In a second group, ribavirin further up-regulated a set of RSV- and IFN-stimulated response genes (ISGs) encoding antiviral proteins (MxA and p56), complement products, acute-phase response factors, and the STAT and IRF transcription factors. Because IFN-β expression itself was reduced in the ribavirin-treated cells, we further investigated the mechanism for up-regulation of the IFN-signaling pathway. Enhanced expression of IFI 6-16, IFI 9-27, MxA/p78, STAT-1α, STAT-1β, IRF-7B, and TAP-1-LMP2 transcripts were independently reproduced by Northern blot analysis. Ribavirin-enhanced TAP-1-LMP2 expression was a transcriptional event where site mutations of the IFN-stimulated response element (ISRE) blocked RSV and ribavirin-inducible promoter activity. Furthermore, ribavirin up-regulated the transcriptional activity of a reporter gene selectively driven by the ISRE. In specific DNA pull-down assays, we observed that ribavirin enhanced RSV-induced STAT-1 binding to the ISRE. We conclude that ribavirin potentiates virus-induced ISRE signaling to enhance the expression of antiviral ISGs, suggesting a mechanism for the efficacy of combined treatment with ribavirin and IFN in other chronic viral diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science