Inhibition of the RNA polymerase III-mediated dsDNA-sensing pathway of innate immunity by vaccinia virus protein E3.

24 Nov 2018

The vaccinia virus E3 protein is an important intracellular modulator of innate immunity that can be split into distinct halves. The C terminus contains a well defined dsRNA-binding domain, whereas the N terminus contains a Z-DNA-binding domain, and both domains are required for virulence. In this study, we investigated whether the E3 Z-DNA-binding domain functions by sequestering cytoplasmic dsDNA thereby preventing the induction of type I interferon (IFN). In line with this hypothesis, expression of E3 ablated both IFN-beta expression and NF-kappaB activity in response to the dsDNA, poly(dA-dT). However, surprisingly, the ability of E3 to block poly(dA-dT) signalling was independent of the N terminus, whereas the dsRNA-binding domain was essential, suggesting that the Z-DNA-binding domain does not bind immunostimulatory dsDNA. This was confirmed by the failure of E3 to co-precipitate with biotinylated dsDNA, whereas the recruitment of several cytoplasmic DNA-binding proteins could be detected. Recently, AT-rich dsDNA was reported to be transcribed into 5'-triphosphate poly(A-U) RNA by RNA polymerase III, which then activates retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I). Consistent with this, RNA from poly(dA-dT) transfected cells induced IFN-beta and expression of the E3 dsRNA-binding domain was sufficient to ablate this response. Given the well documented function of the E3 dsRNA-binding domain we propose that E3 blocks signalling in response to poly(dA-dT) by binding to transcribed poly(A-U) RNA preventing RIG-I activation. This report describes a DNA virus-encoded inhibitor of the RNA polymerase III-dsDNA-sensing pathway and extends our knowledge of E3 as a modulator of innate immunity.