Matthias Habjan 1 , Philipp Hubel 1 , Livia Lacerda 1 , Christian Benda 2 , Cathleen Holze 1 , Christian H. Eberl 3 , Angelika Mann 1 , Eveline Kindler 4 , Cristina Gil-Cruz 4 , John Ziebuhr 5 , Volker Thiel 4 , 6 , Andreas Pichlmair 1 , *
3 October 2013
Viruses that generate capped RNA lacking 2′O methylation on the first ribose are severely affected by the antiviral activity of Type I interferons. We used proteome-wide affinity purification coupled to mass spectrometry to identify human and mouse proteins specifically binding to capped RNA with different methylation states. This analysis, complemented with functional validation experiments, revealed that IFIT1 is the sole interferon-induced protein displaying higher affinity for unmethylated than for methylated capped RNA. IFIT1 tethers a species-specific protein complex consisting of other IFITs to RNA. Pulsed stable isotope labelling with amino acids in cell culture coupled to mass spectrometry as well as in vitro competition assays indicate that IFIT1 sequesters 2′O-unmethylated capped RNA and thereby impairs binding of eukaryotic translation initiation factors to 2′O-unmethylated RNA template, which results in inhibition of translation. The specificity of IFIT1 for 2′O-unmethylated RNA serves as potent antiviral mechanism against viruses lacking 2′O-methyltransferase activity and at the same time allows unperturbed progression of the antiviral program in infected cells.
Cellular messenger RNAs of higher eukaryotes are capped with a methylated guanine and, in addition, methylated at the 2′O position of the first ribose. Viruses unable to methylate their RNA at the 2′O position of the cap and viruses generating uncapped RNA with 5′ triphosphate groups are inhibited by an antiviral complex of different IFIT proteins. How IFIT proteins restrict viruses lacking 2′O methylation at the RNA cap remained unclear. We used a mass spectrometry-based approach to identify proteins binding to capped RNA with different methylation states. We found that IFIT1 directly binds to capped RNA and that this binding was dependent on the methylation state of the cap. Having identified IFIT1 as being central for recognition of 2′O-unmethylated viral RNA we further examined the mode of action of IFITs in vitro and in vivo. Our experiments clearly show that the antiviral mechanism of IFIT1 is based on sequestration of viral RNA lacking cap 2′O methylation, thereby selectively preventing translation of viral RNA. Our data establish IFIT1 as a general sensor for RNA 5′ end structures and provide an important missing link in our understanding of the antiviral activity of IFIT proteins.