The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) virion protein pUL83 (also termed pp65) inhibits the expression of interferon-inducible cellular genes. In this work we demonstrate that pUL83 is also important for efficient induction of transcription from the viral major immediate-early promoter. Infection with a mutant virus containing a premature translation termination codon in the UL83 open reading frame (ORF) (UL83Stop) resulted in decreased transcription from the major immediate-early promoter in a time- and multiplicity-dependent manner. Expression of pUL83 alone is capable of transactivating the promoter in a reporter assay, and pUL83 associates with the promoter in infected cells. To investigate the mechanism by which the protein regulates the major immediate-early promoter, we utilized a mutant virus expressing an epitope-tagged pUL83 from its own promoter to identify protein binding partners for pUL83 during infection. We identified and confirmed the interaction of pUL83 with cellular IFI16 family members throughout the course of HCMV infection. pUL83 recruits IFI16 to the major immediate-early promoter, and IFI16 binding at the promoter is dependent upon the presence of pUL83. Consistent with the results obtained with the UL83Stop virus, infection of IFI16 knockdown cells with wild-type virus resulted in decreased levels of immediate-early transcripts compared to those of control cells. These data identify a previously unknown role for pUL83 in the initiation of the human cytomegalovirus gene expression cascade.
The human cytomegalovirus virion is composed of a DNA genome packaged in an icosahedral capsid, surrounded by a tegument of protein and RNA, all enclosed within a glycoprotein-studded envelope. Achieving this intricate virion architecture requires a coordinated process of assembly and egress. We show here that pUL71, a component of the virion tegument with a previously uncharacterized function, is required for the virus-induced reorganization of host cell membranes, which is necessary for efficient viral assembly and egress. A mutant that did not express pUL71 was able to efficiently accumulate viral genomes and proteins that were tested but was defective for the production and release of infectious virions. The protein localized to vesicular structures at the periphery of the viral assembly compartment, and during infection with a pUL71-deficient virus, these structures were grossly enlarged and aberrantly contained a cellular marker of late endosomes/lysosomes. Mutant virus preparations exhibited less infectivity per unit genome than wild-type virus preparations, due to aggregation of virus particles and their association with membrane fragments. Finally, mutant virus particles accumulated within the cytoplasm of infected cells and were localized to the periphery of large structures with properties of lysosomes, whose formation was kinetically favored in mutant-virus-infected cells. Together, these observations point to a role for pUL71 in the establishment and/or maintenance of a functional viral assembly compartment that is required for normal virion trafficking and egress from infected cells.
Histone deacetylation plays a pivotal role in regulating human cytomegalovirus gene expression. In this report, we have identified candidate HDAC1-interacting proteins in the context of infection by using a method for rapid immunoisolation of an epitope-tagged protein coupled with mass spectrometry. Putative interactors included multiple human cytomegalovirus-coded proteins. In particular, the interaction of pUL38 and pUL29/28 with HDAC1 was confirmed by reciprocal immunoprecipitations. HDAC1 is present in numerous protein complexes, including the HDAC1-containing nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase protein complex, NuRD. pUL38 and pUL29/28 associated with the MTA2 component of NuRD, and shRNA-mediated knockdown of the RBBP4 and CHD4 constituents of NuRD inhibited HCMV immediate-early RNA and viral DNA accumulation; together this argues that multiple components of the NuRD complex are needed for efficient HCMV replication. Consistent with a positive acting role for the NuRD elements during viral replication, the growth of pUL29/28- or pUL38-deficient viruses could not be rescued by treating infected cells with the deacetylase inhibitor, trichostatin A. Transient expression of pUL29/28 enhanced activity of the HCMV major immediate-early promoter in a reporter assay, regardless of pUL38 expression. Importantly, induction of the major immediate-early reporter activity by pUL29/28 required functional NuRD components, consistent with the inhibition of immediate-early RNA accumulation within infected cells after knockdown of RBBP4 and CHD4. We propose that pUL29/28 modifies the NuRD complex to stimulate the accumulation of immediate-early RNAs.
We have identified a spliced transcript that contains sequences from the HCMV UL29 and UL28 open reading frames. It contains amino-terminal UL29 sequences followed by UL28 sequences, and it includes a poly(A) signal derived from the 3'-untranslated region following the UL26 open reading frame. UL29/28 RNA is expressed with early kinetics, and a virus containing a FLAG epitope inserted at the amino terminus of UL29 expressed a tagged approximately 79-kDa protein, pUL29/28, that was detected at 6 h postinfection. The virus also expressed a less-abundant tagged 41-kDa protein, which corresponds in size to a protein that could be produced by translation of an unspliced UL29/28 transcript. Consistent with this prediction, both unspliced and spliced UL29/28 transcript was present in RNA isolated from polysomes. FLAG-tagged protein from the UL29/28 locus accumulated within nuclear viral replication centers during the early phase of infection. Late after infection it was present in the cytoplasm as well, and the protein was present and resistant to proteinase treatment in partially purified preparations of viral particles. Disruption of the UL29/28 locus by mutation resulted in a 10-fold decrease in the levels of DNA replication along with a similar reduction in virus yield. Quantitative reverse transcription-PCR analysis revealed an approximately 2-fold decrease in immediate-early gene expression at 4 to 10 h postinfection compared to the wild-type virus, and transient expression of pUL29/28 activated the major immediate-early promoter. Our results argue that the UL29/28 locus contributes to activation of immediate-early gene expression.
Rhesus cytomegalovirus (RhCMV) is an emerging model for human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) pathogenesis that facilitates experimental CMV infection of a natural primate host closely related to humans. We have generated a library of RhCMV mutants with lesions in genes whose HCMV orthologues have been characterized as nonessential for replication in human fibroblasts, and we characterized their replication in rhesus fibroblasts and epithelial cells. The RhCMV mutants grew well in fibroblasts, as predicted by earlier studies with HCMV. However, mutations in four genes caused replication defects in rhesus retinal pigment epithelial cells: Rh01 (an HCMV TRL1 orthologue), Rh159 (HCMV UL148), Rh160 (HCMV UL132), and Rh203 (HCMV US22). Growth of the Rh01-deficient mutant was examined in detail. After entry into epithelial cells, the mutant expressed representative viral proteins, accumulated viral DNA, and generated infectious virus, but it failed to spread efficiently. We conclude that Rh01 is a cell tropism determinant that has the potential to dramatically affect virus spread and pathogenesis.
Human cytomegalovirus DNA is packaged in virions without histones but associates with histones upon reaching the nucleus of an infected cell. Since transcription is modulated by the interplay of histone modifications, we used chromatin immunoprecipitation to detect acetylation and methylation of histone H3 at viral promoters at different times during the viral replication cycle. Histone H3 at immediate-early promoters is acetylated at the start of infection, while it is initially methylated at early and late promoters. Acetylation at immediate-early promoters is dynamic, with a high level of activating modifications at 3 and 6 h postinfection (hpi), followed by a marked reduction at 12 hpi. All viral promoters, as well as nonpromoter regions, are modified with activating acetylations at 24 to 72 hpi. The transient reduction in histone H3 acetylation at the major immediate-early promoter depends on the cis-repressive sequence to which the UL122-coded IE2 protein binds. A mutant virus lacking this element exhibited decreased IE2 binding at the major immediate-early promoter and failed to show reduced acetylation of histone H3 residing at this promoter at 12 hpi. Our results demonstrate that cytomegalovirus chromatin undergoes dynamic, promoter-specific histone modifications early in the infectious cycle, after which the entire chromosome becomes highly acetylated.
Rhesus cytomegalovirus infection of rhesus macaques has emerged as a model for human cytomegalovirus pathogenesis. The UL128-UL131 locus of the human virus is a primary determinant for viral entry into epithelial cells, an important cell type during cytomegalovirus infection. Rhesus cytomegalovirus strain 68-1 spreads slowly when grown in cultured rhesus epithelial cells, and it does not code for ORFs corresponding to UL128 and the second exon of UL130. We repaired the UL128-UL131 locus of strain 68-1, using rhesus cytomegalovirus strain 180.92 as template, to generate BRh68-1.1. We also repaired a mutation in the UL36 ORF in BRh68-1.1 to make BRh68-1.2. Both repaired derivatives replicate much more efficiently than parental 68-1 virus in rhesus epithelial cells, suggesting that strain 68-1 may be attenuated. Intriguingly, BRh68-1.1 and BRh68-1.2 replicate efficiently in cultured human epithelial cells and endothelial cells. The extended human cell host range of the repaired viruses raises the possibility that rhesus cytomegalovirus-like viruses will be found in humans.
Human cytomegalovirus proteins alter host cells to favor virus replication. These viral proteins include pUL38, which prevents apoptosis. To characterize the mode of action of pUL38, we modified the viral genome to encode an epitope-tagged pUL38 and used rapid immunoaffinity purification to isolate pUL38-interacting host proteins, which were then identified by mass spectrometry. One of the cellular proteins identified was TSC2, a constituent of the tuberous sclerosis tumor suppressor protein complex (TSC1/2). TSC1/2 integrates stress signals and regulates the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), a protein complex that responds to stress by limiting protein synthesis and cell growth. We showed that pUL38 interacts with TSC1 and TSC2 in cells infected with wild-type cytomegalovirus. Furthermore, TSC1/2 failed to regulate mTORC1 in cells expressing pUL38, and these cells exhibited the enlarged size characteristic of cytomegalovirus infection. Thus, pUL38 supports virus replication at least in part by blocking cellular responses to stress.
Human cytomegalovirus has previously been shown to induce the accumulation of cyclooxygenase-2 RNA, protein, and enzyme activity. High doses of cyclooxygenase inhibitors substantially block viral replication in cultured fibroblasts. However, doses corresponding to the level of drug achieved in the plasma of patients have little effect on the replication of human cytomegalovirus in cultured cells. Here, we demonstrate that two nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, tolfenamic acid and indomethacin, markedly reduce direct cell-to-cell spread of human cytomegalovirus in cultured fibroblasts. The block is reversed by addition of prostaglandin E2, proving that it results from the action of the drugs on cyclooxygenase activity. Because direct cell-to-cell spread likely contributes importantly to pathogenesis of the virus, we suggest that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might help to control human cytomegalovirus infections in conjunction with other anti-viral treatments.
A quantitative algorithm was developed and applied to predict target genes of microRNAs encoded by herpesviruses. Although there is almost no conservation among microRNAs of different herpesvirus subfamilies, a common pattern of regulation emerged. The algorithm predicts that herpes simplex virus 1, human cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus all employ microRNAs to suppress expression of their own genes, including their immediate-early genes. In the case of human cytomegalovirus, a virus-coded microRNA, miR-112-1, was predicted to target the viral immediate-early protein 1 mRNA. To test this prediction, mutant viruses were generated that were unable to express the microRNA, or encoded an immediate-early 1 mRNA lacking its target site. Analysis of RNA and protein within infected cells demonstrated that miR-UL112-1 inhibits expression of the major immediate-early protein. We propose that herpesviruses use microRNA-mediated suppression of immediate-early genes as part of their strategy to enter and maintain latency.
Viruses rely on the metabolic network of their cellular hosts to provide energy and building blocks for viral replication. We developed a flux measurement approach based on liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to quantify changes in metabolic activity induced by human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). This approach reliably elucidated fluxes in cultured mammalian cells by monitoring metabolome labeling kinetics after feeding cells (13)C-labeled forms of glucose and glutamine. Infection with HCMV markedly upregulated flux through much of the central carbon metabolism, including glycolysis. Particularly notable increases occurred in flux through the tricarboxylic acid cycle and its efflux to the fatty acid biosynthesis pathway. Pharmacological inhibition of fatty acid biosynthesis suppressed the replication of both HCMV and influenza A, another enveloped virus. These results show that fatty acid synthesis is essential for the replication of two divergent enveloped viruses and that systems-level metabolic flux profiling can identify metabolic targets for antiviral therapy.
Animal viruses (e.g., lentiviruses and herpesviruses) use transcriptional positive feedback (i.e., transactivation) to regulate their gene expression. But positive-feedback circuits are inherently unstable when turned off, which presents a particular dilemma for latent viruses that lack transcriptional repressor motifs. Here we show that a dissipative feedback resistor, composed of enzymatic interconversion of the transactivator, converts transactivation circuits into excitable systems that generate transient pulses of expression, which decay to zero. We use HIV-1 as a model system and analyze single-cell expression kinetics to explore whether the HIV-1 transactivator of transcription (Tat) uses a resistor to shut off transactivation. The Tat feedback circuit was found to lack bi-stability and Tat self-cooperativity but exhibited a pulse of activity upon transactivation, all in agreement with the feedback resistor model. Guided by a mathematical model, biochemical and genetic perturbation of the suspected Tat feedback resistor altered the circuit's stability and reduced susceptibility to molecular noise, in agreement with model predictions. We propose that the feedback resistor is a necessary, but possibly not sufficient, condition for turning off noisy transactivation circuits lacking a repressor motif (e.g., HIV-1 Tat). Feedback resistors may be a paradigm for examining other auto-regulatory circuits and may inform upon how viral latency is established, maintained, and broken.
Human cytomegalovirus infects multiple cell types, including fibroblasts and epithelial cells. It penetrates fibroblasts by fusion at the cell surface but is endocytosed into epithelial cells. In this report, we demonstrate by electron microscopy that the virus uses two different routes to enter retinal pigmented epithelial cells, depending on the cell type in which the infecting virus was produced. Virus produced in epithelial cells preferentially fuses with the plasma membrane, whereas fibroblast-derived virus mostly enters by receptor-mediated endocytosis. Treatment of epithelial cells with agents that block endosome acidification inhibited infection by virus produced in fibroblasts but had only a modest effect on infection by virus from epithelial cells. Epithelial cell-generated virions had higher intrinsic "fusion-from-without" activity than fibroblast-generated particles, and the two virus preparations triggered different cellular signaling responses, as evidenced by markedly different transcriptional profiles. We propose that the cell type in which a human cytomegalovirus particle is produced likely influences its subsequent spread and its contribution to pathogenesis.
Viral replication requires energy and macromolecular precursors derived from the metabolic network of the host cell. Despite this reliance, the effect of viral infection on host cell metabolic composition remains poorly understood. Here we applied liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to measure the levels of 63 different intracellular metabolites at multiple times after human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection of human fibroblasts. Parallel microarray analysis provided complementary data on transcriptional regulation of metabolic pathways. As the infection progressed, the levels of metabolites involved in glycolysis, the citric acid cycle, and pyrimidine nucleotide biosynthesis markedly increased. HCMV-induced transcriptional upregulation of specific glycolytic and citric acid cycle enzymes mirrored the increases in metabolite levels. The peak levels of numerous metabolites during infection far exceeded those observed during normal fibroblast growth or quiescence, demonstrating that HCMV markedly disrupts cellular metabolic homeostasis and institutes its own specific metabolic program.
The DNA damage checkpoint pathway responds to DNA damage and induces a cell cycle arrest to allow time for DNA repair. Several viruses are known to activate or modulate this cellular response. Here we show that the ataxia-telangiectasia mutated checkpoint pathway, which responds to double-strand breaks in DNA, is activated in response to human cytomegalovirus DNA replication. However, this activation does not propagate through the pathway; it is blocked at the level of the effector kinase, checkpoint kinase 2 (Chk2). Late after infection, several checkpoint proteins, including ataxia-telangiectasia mutated and Chk2, are mislocalized to a cytoplasmic virus assembly zone, where they are colocalized with virion structural proteins. This colocalization was confirmed by immunoprecipitation of virion proteins with an antibody that recognizes Chk2. Virus replication was resistant to ionizing radiation, which causes double-strand breaks in DNA. We propose that human CMV DNA replication activates the checkpoint response to DNA double-strand breaks, and the virus responds by altering the localization of checkpoint proteins to the cytoplasm and thereby inhibiting the signaling pathway.
The human CMV UL37x1-encoded protein, also known as the viral mitochondria-localized inhibitor of apoptosis, traffics to the endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria of infected cells. It induces the fragmentation of mitochondria and blocks apoptosis. We demonstrate that UL37x1 protein mobilizes Ca(2+) from the endoplasmic reticulum into the cytosol. This release is accompanied by cell rounding, cell swelling, and reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton, and these morphological changes can be substantially blocked by a Ca(2+) chelating agent. The UL37x1-mediated release of Ca(2+) from the endoplasmic reticulum likely has multiple consequences, including induction of the unfolded protein response, modulation of mitochondrial function, induction of mitochondrial fission, and protection against apoptotic stimuli.
We have characterized the function of the human cytomegalovirus US24 gene, a US22 gene family member. Two US24-deficient mutants (BADinUS24 and BADsubUS24) exhibited a 20- to 30-fold growth defect, compared to their wild-type parent (BADwt), after infection at a relatively low (0.01 PFU/cell) or high (1 PFU/cell) input multiplicity. Representative virus-encoded proteins and viral DNA accumulated with normal kinetics to wild-type levels after infection with mutant virus when cells received equal numbers of mutant and wild-type infectious units. Further, the proteins were properly localized and no ultrastructural differences were found by electron microscopy in mutant-virus-infected cells compared to wild-type-virus-infected cells. However, virions produced by US24-deficient mutants had a 10-fold-higher genome-to-PFU ratio than wild-type virus. When infections were performed using equal numbers of input virus particles, the expression of immediate-early, early, and late viral proteins was substantially delayed and decreased in the absence of US24 protein. This delay is not due to inefficient virus entry, since two tegument proteins and viral DNA moved to the nucleus equally well in mutant- and wild-type-virus-infected cells. In summary, US24 is a virion protein and virions produced by US24-deficient viruses exhibit a block to the human cytomegalovirus replication cycle after viral DNA reaches the nucleus and before immediate-early mRNAs are transcribed.
The human cytomegalovirus immediate-early 5-kb RNA previously has been shown to be a stable intron that is not required for efficient replication of the virus in cultured fibroblasts. Here we describe a murine cytomegalovirus 7.2-kb ortholog of the human cytomegalovirus 5-kb RNA. The 5' end of the 7.2-kb transcript maps to a consensus splice-donor site that is conserved among all cytomegaloviruses. We constructed mutant viruses lacking the entire 7.2-kb coding domain, the splice-donor site predicted to function in the generation of the intron or a hairpin predicted to stabilize the intron. All three mutant viruses failed to produce the 7.2-kb RNA, supporting our conclusion that it is a stable intron. Each of the mutants replicated with normal kinetics in cultured fibroblasts, but the mutants exhibited a clear defect within infected mice. Although the initial acute phase at 4 days after infection appeared to be normal, none of the mutant viruses progressed to the persistent phase, i.e., little virus was detected in the salivary gland at 14 days after infection. The intron functions as an in vivo virulence factor, facilitating progression from the acute to persistent phase of infection.
The human cytomegalovirus UL26 open reading frame encodes proteins of 21 and 27 kDa that result from the use of two different in-frame initiation codons. The UL26 protein is a constituent of the virion and thus is delivered to cells upon viral entry. We have characterized a mutant of human cytomegalovirus in which the UL26 open reading frame has been deleted. The UL26 deletion mutant has a profound growth defect, the magnitude of which is dependent on the multiplicity of infection. Two very early defects were discovered. First, even though they were present in normal amounts within mutant virions, the UL99-coded pp28 and UL83-coded pp65 tegument proteins were present in reduced amounts at the earliest times assayed within newly infected cells; second, there was a delay in immediate-early mRNA and protein accumulation. Further analysis revealed that although wild-type levels of the pp28 tegument protein were present in UL26 deletion mutant virions, the protein was hypophosphorylated. We conclude that the UL26 protein influences the normal phosphorylation of at least pp28 in virions and possibly additional tegument proteins. We propose that the hypophosphorylation of tegument proteins causes their destabilization within newly infected cells, perhaps disrupting the normal detegumentation process and leading to a delay in the onset of immediate-early gene expression.
The human cytomegalovirus UL99-coded pp28 is a myristoylated phosphoprotein located in the virion tegument domain, which resides between the capsid and envelope. A previous study has demonstrated that BADsubUL99, a pp28-deficient mutant virus, fails to assemble enveloped virus particles. Capsids, coated with tegument proteins, accumulate in the cytoplasm of mutant virus-infected cells. This phenotype indicates that pp28 is required for the acquisition of an envelope; it presumably acts by directing tegument-associated capsids to bud through an intracellular membrane derived from the cell's secretory apparatus that has been modified to contain viral transmembrane glycoproteins. Here we demonstrate that BADsubUL99 can spread from cell to cell, even though highly sensitive assays fail to detect infectious virus progeny in cultures of infected fibroblasts. We propose that, in the absence of pp28, tegument-coated capsids might nevertheless bud through cellular membranes, including the plasma membrane. If this suggestion is correct, the enveloped particle could potentially infect an adjacent cell to mediate the cell-to-cell spread that is observed. This mode of spread might also occur after infection with wild-type virus, and it could facilitate immune evasion, assuming that the resulting particles do not have a normal complement of virus-coded envelope glycoproteins.