Involvement of Noxa in Mediating Cellular ER Stress Responses to Lytic Virus Infection

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Noxa is a Bcl-2 homology domain-containing pro-apoptotic mitochondrial protein. Noxa mRNA and protein expression are upregulated by dsRNA or virus, and ectopic Noxa expression enhances cellular sensitivity to virus or dsRNA-induced apoptosis. Here we demonstrate that Noxa null baby mouse kidney (BMK) cells are deficient in normal cytopathic response to lytic viruses, and that reconstitution of the knockout cells with wild-type Noxa restored normal cytopathic responses. Noxa regulation by virus mirrored its regulation by proteasome inhibitors or ER stress inducers and the ER stress response inhibitor salubrinal protected cells against viral cytopathic effects. Noxa mRNA and protein were synergistically upregulated by IFN or dsRNA when combined with ER stress inducers, leading to Noxa/Mcl-1 interaction, activation of Bax and pro-apoptotic caspases, degradation of Mcl-1, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and initiation of apoptosis. These data highlight the importance of ER stress in augmenting the expression of Noxa following viral infection.