Cleavage of osmosensitive transcriptional factor NFAT5 by Coxsackieviral protease 2A promotes viral replication

TitleCleavage of osmosensitive transcriptional factor NFAT5 by Coxsackieviral protease 2A promotes viral replication
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsQiu, Y, Ye, X, Zhang, HM, Hanson, P, Zhao, G, Tong, L, Xie, R, Yang, D
JournalPLOS Pathogens
Date Published12/2017
ISSNPrint: 1553-7366; Online: 1553-7374

Nuclear factor of activated T cells 5 (NFAT5)/Tonicity enhancer binding protein (TonEBP) is a transcription factor induced by hypertonic stress in the kidney. However, the function of NFAT5 in other organs has rarely been studied, even though it is ubiquitously expressed. Indeed, although NFAT5 was reported to be critical for heart development and function, its role in infectious heart diseases has remained obscure. In this study, we aimed to understand the mechanism by which NFAT5 interferes with infection of Coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3), a major cause of viral myocarditis. Our initial results demonstrated that although the mRNA level of NFAT5 remained constant during CVB3 infection, NFAT5 protein level decreased because the protein was cleaved. Bioinformatic prediction and verification of the predicted site by site-directed mutagenesis experiments determined that the NFAT5 protein was cleaved by CVB3 protease 2A at Glycine 503. Such cleavage led to the inactivation of NFAT5, and the 70-kDa N-terminal cleavage product (p70-NFAT5) exerted a dominant negative effect on the full-length NFAT5 protein. We further showed that elevated expression of NFAT5 to counteract viral protease cleavage, especially overexpression of a non-cleavable mutant of NFAT5, significantly inhibited CVB3 replication. Ectopic expression of NFAT5 resulted in elevated expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), a factor reported to inhibit CVB3 replication. The necessity of iNOS for the anti-CVB3 effect of NFAT5 was supported by the observation that inhibition of iNOS blocked the anti-CVB3 effect of NFAT5. In a murine model of viral myocarditis, we observed that treatment with hypertonic saline or mannitol solution upregulated NFAT5 and iNOS expression, inhibited CVB3 replication and reduced tissue damage in the heart. Taken together, our data demonstrate that the anti-CVB3 activity of NFAT5 is impaired during CVB3 infection due to 2A-mediated cleavage of NFAT5. Thus induction of NFAT5 by hypertonic agents may be a promising strategy for the development of anti-CVB3 therapeutics.