Natural killer enhancing factor (NKEF) belongs to the peroxiredoxin family of proteins, a group of antioxidants that has been extensively studied in mammals. Recently, we identified NKEF in the immunoprecipitated proteome of rainbow trout red blood cells (RBCs) exposed to viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV). In the present study, we evaluated the role of NKEF in the antiviral response of rainbow trout against VHSV by examining the expression profile of NKEF in VHSV-exposed RBCs and rainbow trout gonad-2 (RTG-2) cell line. We found an in vitro correlation between decreased VHSV replication and increased NKEF expression after RBCs were exposed to VHSV, however this was not found in RTG-2 cells where the infection highly increased and nkef transcripts remained almost unchanged. In addition, siRNA silencing of the nkef gene in rainbow trout RBCs and RTG-2 cells resulted in increased VHSV replication. We also found a correlation between nkef gene silencing and a decrease in the expression of genes related to type 1 interferon (IFN1) pathway. These findings indicated that NKEF is involved in the antiviral mechanisms of rainbow trout RBCs against VHSV and thus support its antiviral role and implication in the modulation of their immune response. Finally, overexpression of NKEF in an EPC cell line significantly reduced VHSV infectivity and was coupled to an increment in IFN1-related genes. In conclusion, NKEF may be a potential target for new therapeutic strategies against viral infections.
Keywords: NKEF; VHSV; antiviral; erythrocyte; peroxiredoxin; rainbow trout; red blood cells; therapeutic.