Down-regulation of transcription of the proapoptotic gene BNip3 in cultured astrocytes by murine coronavirus infection

Virology. 2003 Nov 10;316(1):104-15. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2003.07.007.


Murine coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) causes encephalitis and demyelination in the central nervous system of susceptible rodents. Astrocytes are the major target for MHV persistence. However, the mechanisms by which astrocytes survive MHV infection and permit viral persistence are not known. Here we performed DNA microarray analysis on differential gene expression in astrocyte DBT cells by MHV infection and found that the mRNA of the proapoptotic gene BNip3 was significantly decreased following MHV infection. This finding was further confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, Western blot analysis, and BNip3-promoter-luciferase reporter system. Interestingly, infection with live and ultraviolet light-inactivated viruses equally repressed BNip3 expression, indicating that the down-regulation of BNip3 expression does not require virus replication and is mediated during cell entry. Furthermore, treatment of cells with chloroquine, which blocks the acidification of endosomes, significantly inhibited the repression of the BNip3 promoter activity induced by the acidic pH-dependent MHV mutant OBLV60, which enters cells via endocytosis, indicating that the down-regulation of BNip3 expression is mediated by fusion between viral envelope and cell membranes during entry. Deletion analysis showed that the sequence between nucleotides 262 and 550 of the 588-base-pair BNip3 promoter is necessary and sufficient for driving the BNip3 expression and that it contains signals that are responsible for MHV-induced down-regulation of BNip3 expression in DBT cells. These results may provide insights into the mechanisms by which MHV evades host antiviral defense and promotes cell survival, thereby allowing its persistence in the host astrocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Astrocytes / virology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Down-Regulation*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Murine hepatitis virus / pathogenicity*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins*


  • BNIP3 protein, human
  • BNIP3L protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins