The Journal of general virology

HCV upregulates Bim through the ROS/JNK signalling pathway, leading to Bax-mediated apoptosis.

PMID 26296767


We previously reported that hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection induces Bax-triggered, mitochondrion-mediated apoptosis by using the HCV J6/JFH1 strain and Huh-7.5 cells. However, it was still unclear how HCV-induced Bax activation. In this study, we showed that the HCV-induced activation and mitochondrial accumulation of Bax were significantly attenuated by treatment with a general antioxidant, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), or a specific c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor, SP600125, with the result suggesting that the reactive oxygen species (ROS)/JNK signalling pathway is upstream of Bax activation in HCV-induced apoptosis. We also demonstrated that HCV infection transcriptionally activated the gene for the pro-apoptotic protein Bim and the protein expression of three major splice variants of Bim (BimEL, BimL and BimS). The HCV-induced increase in the Bim mRNA and protein levels was significantly counteracted by treatment with NAC or SP600125, suggesting that the ROS/JNK signalling pathway is involved in Bim upregulation. Moreover, HCV infection led to a marked accumulation of Bim on the mitochondria to facilitate its interaction with Bax. On the other hand, downregulation of Bim by siRNA (small interfering RNA) significantly prevented HCV-mediated activation of Bax and caspase 3. Taken together, these observations suggest that HCV-induced ROS/JNK signalling transcriptionally activates Bim expression, which leads to Bax activation and apoptosis induction.

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