Avian metapneumovirus subgroup C induces autophagy through the ATF6 UPR pathway

An increasing number of studies have demonstrated that macroautophagy/autophagy plays an important role in the infectious processes of diverse pathogens. However, it remains unknown whether autophagy is induced in avian metapneumovirus (aMPV)-infected host cells, and, if so, how this occurs. Here, we report that aMPV subgroup C (aMPV/C) induces autophagy in cultured cells. We demonstrated this relationship by detecting classical autophagic features, including the formation of autophagsomes, the presence of GFP-LC3 puncta and the conversation of LC3-I into LC3-II. Also, we used pharmacological regulators and siRNAs targeting ATG7 or LC3 to examine the role of autophagy in aMPV/C replication. The results showed that autophagy is required for efficient replication of aMPV/C. Moreover, infection with aMPV/C promotes autophagosome maturation and induces a complete autophagic process. Finally, the ATF6 pathway, of which one component is the unfolded protein response (UPR), becomes activated in aMPV/C-infected cells. Knockdown of ATF6 inhibited aMPV/C-induced autophagy and viral replication. Collectively, these results not only show that autophagy promotes aMPV/C replication in the cultured cells, but also reveal that the molecular mechanisms underlying aMPV/C-induced autophagy depends on regulation of the ER stress-related UPR pathway.