Viral infections induce profound cellular responses resulting the expression of hundreds of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). Some ISGs have specific antiviral activity, while others regulate the cellular response. For most viruses, the specific antiviral ISG(s) is not known, which has potential consequences for the quest for new therapeutics. The ubiquitin-like protein ISG15 is a major regulator of antiviral response and inherited ISG15-deficiency leads to autoinflammatory interferonopathies where patients exhibit elevated ISG expression in the absence of infection. Using CRISPR/Cas9 knockout technology, we have recapitulated these effects in cultured cells, confirming ‘free’ ISG15’s role as a central regulator of type-I IFN antiviral response. We also show that during an antiviral response, ISG15-deficiency leads to significant physiological defects (inhibition of translation and proliferation) and resistance to parainfluenza viruses. We asked if virus resistance was due to the direct antiviral activity of ISGs, or whether cells were non-permissive due to physiological defects. We took advantage of the knowledge that IFIT1 is the principle antiviral ISG for parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5). Knockdown of IFIT1 restored PIV5 infection in ISG15-deficient cells, confirming that resistance was due to the antiviral response and not due to physiological state related to ISG15-deficiency. We also compared infections with related viruses where IFIT1 has known intermediate antiviral activity (PIV2) and low activity (PIV3); restoration of replication with these viruses reflected their sensitivity to IFIT1 restriction. Based on the observations in IFIT1-knockdown cells, we propose a novel platform for the identification of antiviral ISGs based on recovery of virus infection.


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