Transforming growth factor β-activated kinase 1 transcriptionally suppresses hepatitis B virus replication

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) replication in hepatocytes is restricted by the host innate immune system and related intracellular signaling pathways. Transforming growth factor β-activated kinase 1 (TAK1) is a key mediator of toll-like receptors and pro-inflammatory cytokine signaling pathways. Here, we report that silencing or inhibition of endogenous TAK1 in hepatoma cell lines leads to an upregulation of HBV replication, transcription, and antigen expression. In contrast, overexpression of TAK1 significantly suppresses HBV replication, while an enzymatically inactive form of TAK1 exerts no effect. By screening TAK1-associated signaling pathways with inhibitors and siRNAs, we found that the MAPK-JNK pathway was involved in TAK1-mediated HBV suppression. Moreover, TAK1 knockdown or JNK pathway inhibition induced the expression of farnesoid X receptor α, a transcription factor that upregulates HBV transcription. Finally, ectopic expression of TAK1 in a HBV hydrodynamic injection mouse model resulted in lower levels of HBV DNA and antigens in both liver and serum. In conclusion, our data suggest that TAK1 inhibits HBV primarily at viral transcription level through activation of MAPK-JNK pathway, thus TAK1 represents an intrinsic host restriction factor for HBV replication in hepatocytes.


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