Mink enteritis virus (MEV), an autonomous parvovirus, causes acute hemorrhagic enteritis in minks. The molecular pathogenesis of MEV infection has not been fully understood. In this study, we observed a significantly increased apoptosis in the esophagus, small intestine, mesenteric lymph nodes, and kidney in minks experimentally infected with MEVB strain (MEVB). In vitro infection of MEVB in feline F81 cells decreased cell viability, induced cell cycle arrest at G1 phase, and apoptosis. By screening MEV nonstructural proteins (NS1 and NS2) and structural proteins (VP1 and VP2), we demonstrated that the MEV NS1 induced apoptosis in both F81 and human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293T cells, similar to that induced during MEV infection in minks. We found that the NS1 protein induced apoptosis in HEK293T cells was not mediated by the death receptor but the mitochondrial pathway, as demonstrated by mitochondrial depolarization, opening of mitochondrial transition pore, release of cytochrome C, and activation of caspase-9 and -3. Moreover, in NS1-transfected cells, we observed an increase of Bax expression and its translocation to the mitochondria, as well as an increased ratio of the Bax/Bcl-2, ROS production, and activated p38 MAPK and p53. Taken together, our results demonstrated that MEV induces apoptosis through activation of p38 MAPK and the p53-mediated mitochondrial apoptotic pathway induced by NS1 protein, which sheds light on the molecular pathogenesis of MEV-infection.
MEV causes fatal hemorrhagic enteritis in minks. Apoptosis is a cellular mechanism that effectively sacrifices virus-infected cells to maintain homeostasis between the virus and host. In this study, we demonstrated that MEV induces apoptosis both in vivo and in vitro. Mechanistically, the viral large nonstructural protein NS1 activates p38 MAPK that leads p53 phosphorylation to mediate the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway, but not the death receptor-mediated apoptotic pathway. This is the first report to uncover the mechanism underlying MEV-induced apoptosis.