Mitophagy is a selective form of autophagy, targeting damaged mitochondria for lysosomal degradation. Although HCV infection has been shown to induce mitophagy, the precise underlying mechanism and the effector protein responsible remain unclear. Herein, we demonstrated that the HCV non-structural protein 5A (NS5A) plays a key role in regulating cellular mitophagy. Specifically, the expression of HCV NS5A in the hepatoma cells triggered hallmarks of mitophagy including mitochondrial fragmentation, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, and Parkin translocation to the mitochondria. Furthermore, mitophagy induction through the expression of NS5A led to an increase in autophagic flux as demonstrated by an accumulation of LC3II in the presence of bafilomycin and a time-dependent decrease in p62 protein level. Intriguingly, the expression of NS5A concomitantly enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, and treatment with an antioxidant attenuated the NS5A-induced mitophagy event. These phenomena are similarly recapitulated in the NS5A-expressing HCV subgenomic replicon cells. Finally, we demonstrated that expression of HCV core, which has been documented to inhibit mitophagy, blocked the mitophagy induction both in cells harboring HCV replicating subgenomes or expressing NS5A alone. Our results, therefore, identified a new role for NS5A as an important regulator of HCV-induced mitophagy and have implications to broadening our understanding of the HCV-mitophagy interplay.
- Mitochondrial dynamics
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