Lipid droplet density alters the early innate immune response to viral infection

PLoS One. 2018 Jan 2;13(1):e0190597. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0190597. eCollection 2018.


The cellular localisation of many innate signalling events following viral infection has yet to be elucidated, however there has been a few cases in which membranes of certain cellular organelles have acted as platforms to these events. Of these, lipid droplets (LDs) have recently been identified as signalling platforms for innate TLR7 and 9 signalling. Despite their wide range of similar roles in various metabolic pathways, LDs have been overlooked as potential platforms for antiviral innate signalling events. This study established an in vitro model to evaluate the efficiency of the early innate immune response in cells with reduced LD content to the viral mimics, dsDNA and dsRNA, and Sendai viral infection. Using RT-qPCR, the expression of IFN-β and IFN-λ was quantified following stimulation along with the expression of specific ISGs. Luciferase based assays evaluated the combined expression of ISRE-promoter driven ISGs under IFN-β stimulation. Cellular LD content did not alter the entry of fluorescently labelled viral mimics into cells, but significantly decreased the ability of both Huh-7 and HeLa cells to produce type I and III IFN, as well as downstream ISG expression, indicative of an impeded innate immune response. This observation was also seen during Sendai virus infection of HeLa cells, where both control and LD reduced cells replicated the virus to the same level, but a significantly impaired type I and III IFN response was observed in the LD reduced cells. In addition to altered IFN production, cells with reduced LD content exhibited decreased expression of specific antiviral ISGs: Viperin, IFIT-1 and OAS-1 under IFN-β stimulation; However the overall induction of the ISRE-promoter was not effected. This study implicates a role for LDs in an efficient early innate host response to viral infection and future work will endeavour to determine the precise role these important organelles play in induction of an antiviral response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Culture Media
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Lipid Droplets / metabolism*
  • Nucleic Acids / metabolism
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / immunology
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sendai virus / pathogenicity
  • Virus Diseases / immunology*


  • Culture Media
  • Interferon Type I
  • Nucleic Acids
  • RNA, Double-Stranded

Grant support

This work was funded by an internal La Trobe University Grant.