Zika Virus Induces an Atypical Tripartite Unfolded Protein Response with Sustained Sensor and Transient Effector Activation and a Blunted BiP Response

mSphere. 2021 Jun 9;e0036121. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00361-21. Online ahead of print.


To study how the Zika virus (ZIKV) interacts with the host unfolded protein response (UPR), we undertook a kinetics study. We show that ZIKV infection triggers an atypical tripartite UPR in A549 cells involving transient activation of the effectors X-box-binding protein 1, activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4), CCAAT enhancer-binding protein-homologous protein, and growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible protein 34 during early infection and sustained activation of all three UPR sensors: RNA-activated protein kinase-like endoplasmic reticulum-resident kinase (PERK), inositol-requiring kinase-1α (IRE1α), and ATF6. Sustained phosphorylation of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α and rRNA degradation coincide with host translational shutoff, cell lysis, and virus release during late infection. We show a blunted response of the master negative regulator, the immunoglobulin heavy-chain-binding protein (BiP), by chemical UPR inducers, and we show that ZIKV suppresses BiP transcription and translation, suggesting that it may be necessary to blunt the BiP response to sustain UPR sensor activation. The PERK inhibitor GSK2606414 alone has no effects but synergizes with the ATF6 inhibitor Ceapin-A7 to inhibit early and late infection, whereas Ceapin-A7 alone inhibits late infection. Likewise, 4-phenylbutyric acid inhibits ZIKV replication by attenuating the PERK and ATF6 pathways and potentiating the IRE1α pathway, suggesting that ZIKV infection is differentially and temporally regulated by different UPR arms. ZIKV infection is inhibited by pretreatment of chemical UPR inducers but is refractory to the inhibitory activity of chemical inducers once infection has been established, suggesting that ZIKV has anti-UPR mechanisms that may be able to modulate and co-opt the UPR in its life cycle. IMPORTANCE The Zika virus originates from Africa and Asia but is emerging in other parts of the world. It usually causes an asymptomatic or mild, acute infection but can cause serious neurological complications, such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndromes. Therefore, there is a pressing need for an antiviral. Viruses are obligative parasites and are dependent on the hosts for their propagation. As a result, we can target viruses by targeting host dependency. The host unfolded protein response is a cellular homeostatic response to stresses but can also be triggered by virus infections. We show here that Zika virus infection can cause stress and trigger the unfolded protein response. The Zika virus is able to manipulate, subvert, and co-opt the host unfolded protein response to aid its own replication. Understanding host dependency is important in the quest of a new class of antivirals called host-targeting agents.

Keywords: BiP; RNA virus; Zika virus; endoplasmic reticulum stress; flavivirus; host-pathogen interaction; integrated stress response; unfolded protein response; virus-host interaction.