The 2-5A/RNase L system is considered as a central pathway of interferon (IFN) action and could possibly play a more general physiological role as for instance in the regulation of RNA stability in mammalian cells. We describe here the expression cloning and initial characterization of RLI (for RNase L inhibitor), a new type of endoribonuclease inhibitor. RLI cDNA codes for a 68-kDa polypeptide whose expression is not regulated by IFN. Its expression in reticulocyte extracts antagonizes the 2-5A binding ability and the nuclease activity of endogenous RNase L or the cloned 2DR polypeptide. The inhibition requires the association of RLI with the nuclease and is dependent on the ratio between the two proteins. Likewise RLI is coimmunoprecipitated with the RNase L complex by a nuclease-specific antibody. RLI does not lead to 2-5A degradation or to irreversible modification of RNase L. The overexpression of RLI in stably transfected HeLa cells inhibits the antiviral activity of IFN on encephalomyocarditis virus but not on vesicular stomatitis virus. RLI therefore appears as the first described and potentially important mediator of the 2-5A/RNase L pathway.
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