The outcomes of hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection are diverse, ranging from asymptomatic carrier, self-limiting acute infection, and fulminant hepatitis to persistent infection. This is closely associated with the immunological status of the host. This study aimed to understand the innate cellular immunity as the first-line defense mechanism in response to HEV infection. Phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 1, a hallmark of the activation of antiviral interferon (IFN) response, was observed in the liver tissues of the majority of HEV-infected patients but not in the liver of uninfected individuals. In cultured cell lines and primary liver organoids, we found that HEV RNA genome potently induced IFN production and antiviral response. This mechanism is conserved among different HEV strains, including genotypes 1, 3, and 7 as tested. Interestingly, single-stranded HEV RNA is sufficient to trigger the antiviral response, without the requirement of viral RNA synthesis and the generation of an RNA replicative form or replicative intermediate. Surprisingly, the m7G cap and poly A tail are not required, although both are key features of the HEV genome. Mechanistically, this antiviral response occurs in a retinoic acid-inducible gene-I-independent, melanoma differentiation-associated protein 5-independent, mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein-independent, and β-catenin-independent but IRF3-dependent and IRF7-dependent manner. Furthermore, the integrity of the Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription pathway is essentially required. Conclusion: HEV infection elicits an active IFN-related antiviral response in vitro and in patients, triggered by the viral RNA and mediated by IFN regulatory factors 3 and 7 and the Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription cascade; these findings have revealed new insights into HEV-host interactions and provided the basis for understanding the pathogenesis and outcome of HEV infection.,
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Wang, W, Wang, Y, Qu, C, Wang, S. (Shan), Zhou, J. (Jianhua), Cao, W, … Pan, Q. (2018). The RNA genome of hepatitis E virus robustly triggers an antiviral interferon response. Hepatology. doi:10.1002/hep.29702