Dengue virus (DENV) infection is one of the most important mosquito-borne viral diseases, which is endemic in the tropical and sub-tropical regions. Patients with dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) generally present hemorrhagic tendencies, plasma leakage, thrombocytopenia, and hemoconcentration. Hepatic dysfunction is also a crucial feature of DENV infection. Hepatic biopsy specimens obtained from fatal cases of DENV infection show cellular apoptosis, which apparently relate to the pathogenesis. Cathepsins, which are cysteine proteases inside the lysosome, were previously reported to be up-regulated in patients with DHF. However, their functions during DENV infection have not been thoroughly investigated. We show for the first time that DENV induces lysosomal membrane permeabilization. The resulting cytosolic cathepsin B and S contributed to apoptosis via caspase activation. The activity of caspase 3 was significantly reduced in DENV-infected HepG2 cells treatedwith cathepsin B or S inhibitors. Treatment with cathepsin B inhibitor also reduced the activity of caspase 9, suggesting that cathepsin B activates both caspase-9 and caspase-3. Reduced cathepsin B expression, effected by RNA interference, mimicked pharmacological inhibition of the enzyme and confirmed the contribution of cathepsin B to apoptotic events induced by DENV in HepG2 cells.
Keywords: Apoptosis; Cathepsins; Dengue virus; Lysosome.
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