Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in hepatocytes stimulates innate antiviral responses including the production of type III interferons (IFN-λ), including IL-28A, IL-28B, and IL-29 (Figure 1). However, the molecular mechanism(s) regulating the expression of IFN- λ genes in HCV-infected hepatocytes remains undefined. In this study, we examined regulatory elements involved in the induction of IFN- λ genes following HCV infection in hepatocytes and further determined the binding of specific transcription factor(s) to promoter regions of IFN- λ genes. Our studies reveal that the regulatory portion for IL-28A, IL-28B, andIL-29 genes is localized to a 1-kb region in their respective promoters (Figure 2, 4). Notably, interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-3 and -7 are the key transcriptional factors for the induction of IL-28A and IL-28B genes (Figure 5, 6), whereas NF-κB is an additional requirement for the induction of the IL-29 gene (Figure 3). Ligation of Toll-like receptors (TLR) 3, 7, 8, and 9, which also activate IRFs and NF-κB, resulted in more robust production of IFN-λ than that observed with HCV infection, verifying the importance of TLR pathways in IFN-λ production (Figure 8). Furthermore, the addition of IFN-λ to HCV-infected hepatocytes decreased viral replication and produced a concurrent reduction in microRNA-122 (miR-122). The decrease in viral replication was enhanced by the co-administration of IFN-λ and miR-122 inhibitor (miRIDIAN) (Figure 7), suggesting that such combinatorial therapies may be beneficial for the treatment of chronic HCV infection.
Wide River Institute of Immunology, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea
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