Dengue virus (DENV) is a mosquito-borne virus that infects upward of 300 million people annually and has the potential to cause fatal hemorrhagic fever and shock. While the parameters contributing to dengue immunopathogenesis remain unclear, the collapse of redox homeostasis and the damage induced by oxidative stress have been correlated with the development of inflammation and progression toward the more severe forms of disease. In the present study, we demonstrate that the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) late after DENV infection (>24 hpi) resulted from a disruption in the balance between oxidative stress and the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-dependent antioxidant response. The DENV NS2B3 protease complex strategically targeted Nrf2 for degradation in a proteolysis-independent manner; NS2B3 licensed Nrf2 for lysosomal degradation. Impairment of the Nrf2 regulator by the NS2B3 complex inhibited the antioxidant gene network and contributed to the progressive increase in ROS levels, along with increased virus replication and inflammatory or apoptotic gene expression. By 24 hpi, when increased levels of ROS and antiviral proteins were observed, it appeared that the proviral effect of ROS overcame the antiviral effects of the interferon (IFN) response. Overall, these studies demonstrate that DENV infection disrupts the regulatory interplay between DENV-induced stress responses, Nrf2 antioxidant signaling, and the host antiviral immune response, thus exacerbating oxidative stress and inflammation in DENV infection. IMPORTANCE Dengue virus (DENV) is a mosquito-borne pathogen that threatens 2.5 billion people in more than 100 countries annually. Dengue infection induces a spectrum of clinical symptoms, ranging from classical dengue fever to severe dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome; however, the complexities of DENV immunopathogenesis remain controversial. Previous studies have reported the importance of the transcription factor Nrf2 in the control of redox homeostasis and antiviral/inflammatory or death responses to DENV. Importantly, the production of reactive oxygen species and the subsequent stress response have been linked to the development of inflammation and progression toward the more severe forms of the disease. Here, we demonstrate that DENV uses the NS2B3 protease complex to strategically target Nrf2 for degradation, leading to a progressive increase in oxidative stress, inflammation, and cell death in infected cells. This study underlines the pivotal role of the Nrf2 regulatory network in the context of DENV infection.
- Oxidative stress