Involvement of Noxa in Cellular Apoptotic Responses to Interferon, Double-stranded RNA, and Virus Infection

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Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) accumulates in virally infected cells, leading to induction of genes encoding proteins involved in signaling, apoptosis, protein synthesis/processing, and cell metabolism. Noxa is a BH3-containing mitochondrial protein that contributes to apoptosis by disrupting mitochondrial outer membrane integrity. Here we demonstrate potent induction of Noxa expression by exposure of cells to dsRNA, interferon (IFN), and virus. Noxa induction was confirmed by using reverse transcriptase-PCR and immunoblot analyses in multiple human tumor cell lines. Importantly, Noxa regulation by IFN and dsRNA was independent of p53, thereby identifying a novel mechanism of Noxa induction. Ectopic expression of Noxa in HT1080 fibrosarcoma cells enhanced cellular sensitivity to viral or dsRNA/actinomycin D-induced apoptosis, typified by enhanced cytochrome c release from the mitochondrial to the cytosolic fraction and increased cleavage of caspases 3 and 9. Point and deletion mutations of Noxa confirmed that both the BH3 domain and the mitochondrial-targeting domain were necessary for enhanced cellular apoptotic responses to dsRNA, IFN, or virus. Treatment of cells with dsRNA or virus, but not etoposide, induced interaction between Noxa and Bax that required an intact Noxa BH3 domain. Interestingly, the Noxa mitochondrial-targeting domain deletion mutant interacted with Bax in a dsRNA-dependent manner and redirected Bax away from the mitochondria, thus acting as a dominant-negative protein. Together, these data suggest that Noxa is an important component of the innate immune response of cells to viral infection, leading to enhanced cellular apoptosis that may play a role in limiting viral dissemination.