Upon infection with many RNA viruses, the cytoplasmic retinoic acid inducible gene-I (RIG-I) pathway activates the latent transcription factor IRF-3, causing its nuclear translocation and the induction of many antiviral genes, including those encoding interferons. Here, we report a novel and distinct activity of IRF-3, in virus-infected cells, that induces apoptosis. Using genetically defective mouse and human cell lines, we demonstrated that, although both pathways required the presence of RIG-I, IPS1, TRAF3 and TBK1, only the apoptotic pathway required the presence of TRAF2 and TRAF6 in addition. More importantly, transcriptionally inactive IRF-3 mutants, such as the one missing its DNA-binding domain, could efficiently mediate apoptosis. Apoptosis was triggered by the direct interaction of IRF-3, through a newly identified BH3 domain, with the pro-apoptotic protein Bax, their co-translocation to the mitochondria and the resulting activation of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. Thus, IRF-3 is a dual-action cytoplasmic protein that, upon activation, translocates to the nucleus or to the mitochondrion and triggers two complementary antiviral responses of the infected cell.
Chattopadhyay, S., Marques, J. T., Yamashita, M., Peters, K. L., Smith, K., Desai, A., Williams, B. R. G., & Sen, G. C. (2010). Viral apoptosis is induced by IRF-3-mediated activation of Bax. The EMBO Journal, 29(10), 1762 - 1773. https://doi.org/10.1038/emboj.2010.50