The 2-5A system contributes to the antiviral effect of interferons through the synthesis of 2-5A and its activation of the ribonuclease, RNase L. RNase L degrades viral and cellular RNA after activation by unique, 2'-5' phosphodiester-linked, oligoadenylates [2-5A, (pp)p5' A2'(P5'A2')]n, n >=2. Because both the 2-5A system and apoptosis can serve as viral defense mechanisms and RNA degradation occurs during both processes, we investigated the potential role of RNase L in apoptosis. Overexpression of human RNase L by an inducible promoter in NIH3T3 fibroblasts decreased cell viability and triggered apoptosis. Activation of endogenous RNase L, specifically with 2-5A or with dsRNA, induced apoptosis. Inhibition of RNase L with a dominant negative mutant suppressed poly (I).poly (C)-induced apoptosis in interferon-primed fibroblasts. Moreover, inhibition of RNase L suppressed apoptosis induced by poliovirus. Thus, increased RNase L levels induced apoptosis and inhibition of RNase L activity blocked viral-induced apoptosis. Apoptosis may be one of the antiviral mechanisms regulated by the 2-5A system.
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