The RIG-like helicase (RLH) family of intracellular receptors detect viral nucleic acid and signal through the mitochondrial antiviral signalling adaptor MAVS (also known as Cardif, VISA and IPS-1) during a viral infection. MAVS activation leads to the rapid production of antiviral cytokines, including type 1 interferons. Although MAVS is vital to antiviral immunity, its regulation from within the mitochondria remains unknown. Here we describe human NLRX1, a highly conserved nucleotide-binding domain (NBD)- and leucine-rich-repeat (LRR)-containing family member (known as NLR) that localizes to the mitochondrial outer membrane and interacts with MAVS. Expression of NLRX1 results in the potent inhibition of RLH- and MAVS-mediated interferon-β promoter activity and in the disruption of virus-induced RLH-MAVS interactions. Depletion of NLRX1 with small interference RNA promotes virus-induced type I interferon production and decreases viral replication. This work identifies NLRX1 as a check against mitochondrial antiviral responses and represents an intersection of three ancient cellular processes: NLR signalling, intracellular virus detection and the use of mitochondria as a platform for anti-pathogen signalling. This represents a conceptual advance, in that NLRX1 is a modulator of pathogen-associated molecular pattern receptors rather than a receptor, and identifies a key therapeutic target for enhancing antiviral responses.
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