The protein kinase RIPK1 plays a crucial role at the crossroad of stress-induced signaling pathways that affects cell’s decision to live or die. The present study aimed to define the role of RIPK1 in hepatocytes during fulminant viral hepatitis, a worldwide syndrome mainly observed in hepatitis B virus (HBV) infected patients. Mice deficient for RIPK1, specifically in liver parenchymal cells (Ripk1 LPC-KO ) and their wild-type littermates (Ripk1 fl/fl ), were challenged by either the murine hepatitis virus type 3 (MHV3) or poly I:C, a synthetic analog of double-stranded RNA mimicking viral pathogen-associated molecular pattern. Ripk1 LPC-KO mice developed more severe symptoms at early stage of the MHV3-induced fulminant hepatitis. Similarly, administration of poly I:C only triggered increase of systemic transaminases in Ripk1 LPC-KO mice, reflecting liver damage through induced apoptosis as illustrated by cleaved-caspase 3 labeling of liver tissue sections. Neutralization of TNF-α or prior depletion of macrophages were able to prevent the appearance of apoptosis of hepatocytes in poly I:C-challenged Ripk1 LPC-KO mice. Moreover, poly I:C never induced direct hepatocyte death in primary culture whatever the murine genotype, while it always stimulated an anti-viral response. Our investigations demonstrated that RIPK1 protects hepatocytes from TNF-α secreted from macrophages during viral induced fulminant hepatitis. These data emphasize the potential worsening risks of an HBV infection in people with polymorphism or homozygous amorphic mutations already described for the RIPK1 gene.
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