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Multiple E3 ligases act as antiviral factors against SARS-CoV-2 via inducing the ubiquitination and degradation of ORF9b.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) open reading frame 9b (ORF9b) antagonizes the antiviral type I and III interferon (IFN) responses and is ubiquitinated and degraded via the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. However, E3 ubiquitin ligases that mediate the polyubiquitination and degradation of ORF9b remain unknown. In this study, we identified 14 E3 ligases that specifically bind to SARS-CoV-2 ORF9b. Specifically, three E3 ligases, HECT, UBA, and WWE domain-containing E3 ubiquitin protein ligase 1 (HUWE1), ubiquitin protein ligase E3 component n-recognin 4 (UBR4), and UBR5, induced K48-linked polyubiquitination and degradation of ORF9b, thereby attenuating ORF9b-mediated inhibition of the IFN response and SARS-CoV-2 replication. Moreover, each E3 ligase performed this function independent of the other two E3 ligases. Therefore, the three E3 ligases identified in this study as anti-SARS-CoV-2 host factors provide novel molecular insight into the virus-host interaction.IMPORTANCEUbiquitination is an important post-translational modification that regulates multiple biological processes, including viral replication. Identification of E3 ubiquitin ligases that target viral proteins for degradation can provide novel targets for antagonizing viral infections. Here, we identified multiple E3 ligases, including HECT, UBA, and WWE domain-containing E3 ubiquitin protein ligase 1 (HUWE1), ubiquitin protein ligase E3 component n-recognin 4 (UBR4), and UBR5, that ubiquitinated and induced the degradation of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) open reading frame 9b (ORF9b), an interferon (IFN) antagonist, thereby enhancing IFN production and attenuating SARS-CoV-2 replication. Our study provides new possibilities for drug development targeting the interaction between E3 ligases and ORF9b.

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