Interferons (IFNs) play a crucial role in host antiviral response via activating JAK/STAT (Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription) signaling pathway to induce expression of myriad genes. STAT2 is a key player in the IFN-activated JAK/STAT signaling. Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is an important viral pathogen causing huge loss to the swine industry. PRRSV infection elicits a meager protective immune response in pigs. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of PRRSV on STAT2 signaling. Here, we demonstrated that PRRSV downregulated STAT2 to inhibit IFN-activated signaling. PRRSV strains of both PRRSV-1 and PRRSV-2 species reduced STAT2 protein level, whereas the STAT2 transcript level had minimal change. PRRSV reduced the STAT2 level in a dose-dependent manner and shortened STAT2 half-life significantly from approximately 30 to 5 hours. PRRSV-induced STAT2 degradation could be restored by treatment with the proteasome inhibitor MG132 and lactacystin. In addition, PRRSV non-structural protein 11 (nsp11) was identified to interact with and reduce STAT2. The N-terminal domain (NTD) of nsp11 was responsible for STAT2 degradation and interacted with STAT2 NTD and coil-coil domain (CCD). Mutagenesis analysis showed that the amino acid residue K59 of nsp11 was indispensable for inducing STAT2 reduction. Mutant PRRSV with the K59A mutation generated by reverse genetics almost lost the ability to reduce STAT2. Together, these results demonstrate that PRRSV nsp11 antagonizes IFN signaling via mediating STAT2 degradation and provide further insights into the PRRSV interference of the innate immunity.
SIGNIFICANCE PRRSV infection elicits a meager protective immune response in pigs. One of the possible reasons is that PRRSV antagonizes interferon induction and its downstream signaling. Interferons are key components in the innate immunity and play crucial roles against viral infection and in the activation of adaptive immune response via JAK/STAT signaling. STAT2 is indispensable in the JAK/STAT signaling as it is also involved in activation of antiviral activity in the absence of STAT1. Here, we discovered that PRRSV nsp11 downregulates STAT2. Interestingly, the N-terminal domain of nsp11 is responsible for inducing STAT2 degradation and directly interacts with STAT2 N-terminal domain. We also identified a crucial amino acid residue K59 in nsp11 as a mutation of it led to the loss of the capability to downregulate STAT2. A mutant PRRSV with mutation of K59 had minimal effect on STAT2 reduction. Our data provide further insights into PRRSV interference with interferon signaling.