Extracellular Vesicle Release Promotes Viral Replication during Persistent HCV Infection

Extracellular Vesicles

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection promotes autophagic degradation of viral replicative intermediates for sustaining replication and spread. The excessive activation of autophagy can induce cell death and terminate infection without proper regulation. A prior publication from this laboratory showed that an adaptive cellular response to HCV microbial stress inhibits autophagy through beclin 1 degradation. The mechanisms of how secretory and degradative autophagy are regulated during persistent HCV infection is unknown. This study was performed to understand the mechanisms of viral persistence in the absence of degradative autophagy, which is essential for virus survival. Using HCV infection of a CD63-green fluorescence protein (CD63-GFP), labeled stable transfected Huh-7.5 cell, we found that autophagy induction at the early stage of HCV infection increased the degradation of CD63-GFP that favored virus replication. However, the late-stage of persistent HCV infection showed impaired autophagic degradation, leading to the accumulation of CD63-GFP. We found that impaired autophagic degradation promoted the release of extracellular vesicles and exosomes. The impact of blocking the release of extracellular vesicles (EVs) on virus survival was investigated in persistently infected cells and sub-genomic replicon cells. Our study illustrates that blocking EV and exosome release severely suppresses virus replication without effecting host cell viability. Furthermore, we found that blocking EV release triggers interferon lambda 1 secretion. These findings suggest that the release of EVs is an innate immune escape mechanism that promotes persistent HCV infection. We propose that inhibition of extracellular vesicle release can be explored as a potential antiviral strategy for the treatment of HCV and other emerging RNA viruses.

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Cigarette smoke (CS) represents one of the most relevant environmental risk factors for several chronic pathologies. Tissue damage caused by CS exposure is mediated, at least in part, by oxidative stress induced by its toxic and pro-oxidant components. Evidence demonstrates that extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by various cell types exposed to CS extract (CSE) are characterized by altered biochemical cargo and gained pathological properties. In the present study, we evaluated the content of oxidized proteins and phospholipid fatty acid profiles of EVs released by human bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells treated with CSE. This specific molecular characterization has hitherto not been performed. After confirmation that CSE reduces viability of BEAS-2B cells and elevates intracellular ROS levels, in a dose-dependent manner, we demonstrated that 24 h exposure at 1% CSE, a concentration that only slight modifies cell viability but increases ROS levels, was able to increase carbonylated protein levels in cells and released EVs. The release of oxidatively modified proteins via EVs might represent a mechanism used by cells to remove toxic proteins in order to avoid their intracellular overloading. Moreover, 1% CSE induced only few changes in the fatty acid asset in BEAS-2B cell membrane phospholipids, whereas several rearrangements were observed in EVs released by CSE-treated cells. The impact of changes in acyl chain composition of CSE-EVs accounted for the increased saturation levels of phospholipids, a membrane parameter that might influence EV stability, uptake and, at least in part, EV-mediated biological effects. The present in vitro study adds new information concerning the biochemical composition of CSE-related EVs, useful to predict their biological effects on target cells. Furthermore, the information regarding the presence of oxidized proteins and the specific membrane features of CSE-related EVs can be useful to define the utilization of circulating EVs as marker for diagnosing of CS-induced lung damage and/or CS-related diseases.

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