Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) activates NF-κB during infection. We examined the ability of all 22 PRRSV genes for NF-κB regulation and determined the nucleocapsid (N) protein as the NF-κB activator. Protein inhibitor of activated STAT1 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 1) (PIAS1) was identified as a cellular protein binding to N. PIAS1 is known to bind to p65 (RelA) in the nucleus and blocks its DNA binding, thus functions as a repressor of NF-κB. Binding of N to PIAS1 released p65 for NF-κB activation. The N-terminal half of PIAS1 was mapped as the N-binding domain, and this region overlapped its p65-binding domain. For N, the region between 37 and 72 aa was identified as the binding domain to PIAS1, and this domain alone was able to activate NF-κB. A nuclear localization signal (NLS) knock-out mutant N did not activate NF-κB, and this is mostly likely due to the lack of its interaction with PIAS1 in the nucleus, demonstrating the positive correlation between the binding of N to PIAS1 and the NF-κB activation. Our study reveals a role of N in the nucleus for NF-κB activation and proinflammatory cytokine production during infection.
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