Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Induced Synthesis of a Novel Viral Factor Mediates Efficient Replication of Genotype-1 Hepatitis E Virus

PLoS Pathog. 2016 Apr 1;12(4):e1005521. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005521. eCollection 2016 Apr.


Hepatitis E virus (HEV) causes acute hepatitis in many parts of the world including Asia, Africa and Latin America. Though self-limiting in normal individuals, it results in ~30% mortality in infected pregnant women. It has also been reported to cause acute and chronic hepatitis in organ transplant patients. Of the seven viral genotypes, genotype-1 virus infects humans and is a major public health concern in South Asian countries. Sporadic cases of genotype-3 and 4 infection in human and animals such as pigs, deer, mongeese have been reported primarily from industrialized countries. Genotype-5, 6 and 7 viruses are known to infect animals such as wild boar and camel, respectively. Genotype-3 and 4 viruses have been successfully propagated in the laboratory in mammalian cell culture. However, genotype-1 virus replicates poorly in mammalian cell culture and no other efficient model exists to study its life cycle. Here, we report that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress promotes genotype-1 HEV replication by inducing cap-independent, internal initiation mediated translation of a novel viral protein (named ORF4). Importantly, ORF4 expression and stimulatory effect of ER stress inducers on viral replication is specific to genotype-1. ORF4 protein sequence is mostly conserved among genotype-1 HEV isolates and ORF4 specific antibodies were detected in genotype-1 HEV patient serum. ORF4 interacted with multiple viral and host proteins and assembled a protein complex consisting of viral helicase, RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), X, host eEF1α1 (eukaryotic elongation factor 1 isoform-1) and tubulinβ. In association with eEF1α1, ORF4 stimulated viral RdRp activity. Furthermore, human hepatoma cells that stably express ORF4 or engineered proteasome resistant ORF4 mutant genome permitted enhanced viral replication. These findings reveal a positive role of ER stress in promoting genotype-1 HEV replication and pave the way towards development of an efficient model of the virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • Hepatitis E virus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • RNA Replicase / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Virus Replication / genetics*


  • RNA, Viral
  • Viral Proteins
  • RNA Replicase

Grant support

Ramalingaswamy Fellowship to MS is gratefully acknowledged. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.