Autophagy promotes the replication of encephalomyocarditis virus in host cells


A growing number of studies have demonstrated that autophagy has a diverse role in the infection process of different pathogens. However, to date, it is unknown whether autophagy is activated in encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV)-infected host cells, and if so, what its role is in this process. In the present study, we first demonstrated that EMCV infection significantly increases the number of double- and single-membrane vesicles in the cytoplasm of host cells. It was then confirmed that these observed vesicles are indeed related to autophagy, and that EMCV replication is required for the induction of autophagy by examining LC3-I/-II conversion and p62/SQSTM1 degradation using immunoblotting. Next, we performed confocal immunofluorescence analysis and discovered that, during EMCV replication, both the nonstructural protein 3A and capsid protein VP1 colocalized with LC3. The colocalizations of both 3A and VP1 protein with autophagosome-like vesicles were further confirmed using immunoelectron microscopy, indicating that EMCV undergoes RNA replication on the membranes of these vesicles. Finally, we used pharmacological regulators and siRNAs to examine the role of autophagy in EMCV replication. Our results suggest that autophagy not only promotes the replication of EMCV in host cells, but it also provides a topological mechanism for releasing cytoplasmic viruses in a nonlytic manner. Noticeably, the autophagic pharmaceuticals we used had no significant effect on virus entry or cell viability, both of which may affect viral replication. To our knowledge, ours is the first strong evidence indicating that autophagy is involved in EMCV infection in host cells.

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Autophagy promotes the replication of encephalomyocarditis virus in host cells