Selective inactivation of USP18 isopeptidase activity in vivo enhances ISG15 conjugation and viral resistance

Lars Ketscher, Ronny Hannß, David J. Moralese, Anja Basters, Susana Guerra, Tobias Goldmann, Annika Hausmann, Marco Prinz, Ronald Naumann, Andrew Pekosz, Olaf Utermöhlen, Deborah J. Lenschow, Klaus Peter Knobeloch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Protein modification by the ubiquitin-like protein ISG15 is an interferon (IFN) effector system, which plays a major role in antiviral defense. ISG15 modification is counteracted by the isopeptidase USP18, a major negative regulator of IFN signaling, which was also shown to exert its regulatory function in an isopeptidase-independent manner. To dissect enzymatic and nonenzymatic functions of USP18 in vivo,we generated knock-inmice (USP18C61A/ C61A) expressing enzymatically inactive USP18. USP18C61A/C61A mice displayed increased levels of ISG15 conjugates, validating that USP18 is a major ISG15 isopeptidase in vivo. Unlike USP18-/- mice, USP18C61A/ C61A animals did not exhibit morphological abnormalities, fatal IFN hypersensitivity, or increased lethality, clearly showing that major USP18 functions are unrelated to its protease activity. Strikingly, elevated ISGylation in USP18 C61A/ C61Amice was accompanied by increased viral resistance against vaccinia virus and influenza B virus infections. Enhanced resistance upon influenza B infection in USP18C61A/ C61A mice was completely reversed in USP18C61A/ C61A mice, which additionally lack ISG15, providing evidence that the observed reduction in viral titers is ISG15 dependent. These results suggest that increasing ISGylation by specific inhibition of USP18 protease activity could constitute a promising antiviral strategy with only a minimal risk of severe adverse effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1577-1582
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 3 2015


  • ISG15
  • Interferonubiquitin
  • Isopeptidaseinfluenza
  • UBP43

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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