The outer mitochondrial membrane translocator protein (TSPO) binds cholesterol with high affinity and is involved in mediating its delivery into mitochondria, the rate-limiting step in hormone-induced steroidogenesis. Specific ligand binding to TSPO has been shown to initiate steroid formation. However, recent studies of the genetic deletion of Tspo have provided conflicting results. Here, we address and extend previous studies by examining the effects of Tspo-specific mutations on steroid formation in hormone- and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)-responsive MA-10 cells, using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. Two mutant subcell lines, nG1 and G2G, each carrying a Tspo exon2-specific genome modification, and two control subcell lines, G1 and HH, each carrying a wild-type Tspo, were produced. In response to dibutyryl cAMP, the nG1 and G2G cells produced progesterone at levels significantly lower than those produced by the corresponding control cells G1 and HH. Neutral lipid homeostasis, which provides free cholesterol for steroid biosynthesis, was altered significantly in the Tspo mutant cells. Interestingly, the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) of the Tspo mutant cells was significantly reduced compared with that of the control cells, likely because of TSPO interactions with the voltage-dependent anion channel and tubulin at the outer mitochondrial membrane. Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR) expression was induced in nG1 cells, suggesting that reduced TSPO affected STAR synthesis and/or processing. Taken together, these results provide further evidence for the critical role of TSPO in steroid biosynthesis and suggest that it may function at least in part via its regulation of ΔΨm and effects on STAR.
Most vertebrate and plant RNA and small DNA viruses suppress genomic CpG and UpA dinucleotide frequencies, apparently mimicking host mRNA composition. Artificially increasing CpG/UpA dinucleotides attenuates viruses through an entirely unknown mechanism. Using the echovirus 7 (E7) model in several cell types, we show that the restriction in E7 replication in mutants with increased CpG/UpA dinucleotides occurred immediately after viral entry, with incoming virions failing to form replication complexes. Sequences of CpG/UpA-high virus stocks showed no evidence of increased mutational errors that would render them replication defective, these viral RNAs were not differentially sequestered in cytoplasmic stress granules nor did they induce a systemic antiviral state. Importantly, restriction was not mediated through effects on translation efficiency since replicons with high CpG/UpA sequences inserted into a non-coding region were similarly replication defective. Host-cells thus possess intrinsic defence pathways that prevent replication of viruses with increased CpG/UpA frequencies independently of codon usage.