Lo Cigno I, De Andrea M, Borgogna C, Albertini S, Landini MM, Peretti A, Johnson KE, Chandran B, Landolfo S, Gariglio M
UNLABELLED: The human interferon-inducible IFI16 protein, an innate immune sensor of intracellular DNA, was recently demonstrated to act as a restriction factor for human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) infection by inhibiting both viral-DNA replication and transcription. Through the use of two distinct cellular models, this study provides strong evidence in support of the notion that IFI16 can also restrict human papillomavirus 18 (HPV18) replication. In the first model, an immortalized keratinocyte cell line (NIKS) was used, in which the IFI16 protein was knocked down through the use of small interfering RNA (siRNA) technology and overexpressed following transduction with the adenovirus IFI16 (AdVIFI16) vector. The second model consisted of U2OS cells transfected by electroporation with HPV18 minicircles. In differentiated IFI16-silenced NIKS-HPV18 cells, viral-load values were significantly increased compared with differentiated control cells. Consistent with this, IFI16 overexpression severely impaired HPV18 replication in both NIKS and U2OS cells, thus confirming its antiviral restriction activity. In addition to the inhibition of viral replication, IFI16 was also able to reduce viral transcription, as demonstrated by viral-gene expression analysis in U2OS cells carrying episomal HPV18 minicircles and HeLa cells. We also provide evidence that IFI16 promotes the addition of heterochromatin marks and the reduction of euchromatin marks on viral chromatin at both early and late promoters, thus reducing both viral replication and transcription. Altogether, these results argue that IFI16 restricts chromatinized HPV DNA through epigenetic modifications and plays a broad surveillance role against viral DNA in the nucleus that is not restricted to herpesviruses. IMPORTANCE: Intrinsic immunity is mediated by cellular restriction factors that are constitutively expressed and active even before a pathogen enters the cell. The host nuclear factor IFI16 acts as a sensor of foreign DNA and an antiviral restriction factor, as recently demonstrated by our group for human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). Here, we provide the first evidence that IFI16 inhibits HPV18 replication by repressing viral-gene expression and replication. This antiviral restriction activity was observed in immortalized keratinocytes transfected with the religated genomes and in U2OS cells transfected with HPV18 minicircles, suggesting that it is not cell type specific. We also show that IFI16 promotes the assembly of heterochromatin on HPV DNA. These changes in viral chromatin structure lead to the generation of a repressive state at both early and late HPV18 promoters, thus implicating the protein in the epigenetic regulation of HPV gene expression and replication.