Interferon-induced proteins with tetratricopeptide repeats (IFITs) are produced in both interferon-dependent or interferon-independent manners after pathogen-associated molecular pattern recognition. Four IFITs (IFIT1, IFIT2, IFIT3 and IFIT5) have been characterized in humans. They are cytoplasmic proteins with repetitive tetratricopeptide repeats, protein motifs well characterized to mediate protein-protein interactions. IFITs play several functions in cells and their antiviral roles are well established. IFIT1 principally binds non-self cap0 mRNAs and inhibit their translation. On its own, IFIT1 overexpresses poorly in cells. Co-expression with IFIT3 enhances IFIT1 protein levels. Likewise, downregulation of endogenous IFIT3 decreases the expression of IFIT1 at the protein level. The stabilization is dependent on the interaction of the C terminus of IFIT3 with IFIT1 via a specific motif in both proteins, disruption of which greatly reduced IFIT1 stability. It is currently unclear why efficient IFIT1 expression is regulated by its interaction with IFIT3 in this manner. To address this, we have begun to investigate the process of IFIT1 degradation. We have used a range of inhibitors to disrupt specific cellular protein degradation pathways. Surprisingly, inhibition of proteasome and lysosome pathways showed protection of IFIT1 from active degradation, suggesting the protein may be degraded via various routes. We will discuss our current efforts to generate stabilized IFIT1 mutants using random and insertional mutagenesis to identify motifs that may contribute to IFIT1 turnover. These findings will contribute to a deeper understanding of IFITs role during the immune response and may identify methods by which their function can be manipulated.

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