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Posttranslational Modifications of Baculovirus Protamine-Like Protein P6.9 and the Significance of Its Hyperphosphorylation for Viral Very Late Gene Hyperexpression.

Journal of virology (2015-05-15)
Ao Li, Haizhou Zhao, Qingying Lai, Zhihong Huang, Meijin Yuan, Kai Yang
ABSTRACT

Many viruses utilize viral or cellular chromatin machinery for efficient infection. Baculoviruses encode a conserved protamine-like protein, P6.9. This protein plays essential roles in various viral physiological processes during infection. However, the mechanism by which P6.9 regulates transcription remains unknown. In this study, 7 phosphorylated species of P6.9 were resolved in Sf9 cells infected with the baculovirus type species Autographa californica multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV). Mass spectrometry identified 22 phosphorylation and 10 methylation sites but no acetylation sites in P6.9. Immunofluorescence demonstrated that the P6.9 and virus-encoded serine/threonine kinase PK1 exhibited similar distribution patterns in infected cells, and coimmunoprecipitation confirmed the interaction between them. Upon pk1 deletion, nucleocapsid assembly and polyhedron formation were interrupted and the transcription of viral very late genes was downregulated. Interestingly, we found that the 3 most phosphorylated P6.9 species vanished from Sf9 cells transfected with the pk1 deletion mutant, suggesting that PK1 is involved in the hyperphosphorylation of P6.9. Mass spectrometry suggested that the phosphorylation of the 7 Ser/Thr and 5 Arg residues in P6.9 was PK1 dependent. Replacement of the 7 Ser/Thr residues with Ala resulted in a P6.9 phosphorylation pattern similar to that of the pk1 deletion mutant. Importantly, the decreases in the transcription level of viral very late genes and viral infectivity were consistent. Our findings reveal that P6.9 hyperphosphorylation is a precondition for the maximal hyperexpression of baculovirus very late genes and provide the first experimental insights into the function of the baculovirus protamine-like protein and the related protein kinase in epigenetics. Diverse posttranslational modifications (PTMs) of histones constitute a code that creates binding platforms that recruit transcription factors to regulate gene expression. Many viruses also utilize host- or virus-induced chromatin machinery to promote efficient infections. Baculoviruses encode a protamine-like protein, P6.9, which is required for a variety of processes in the infection cycle. Currently, P6.9's PTM sites and its regulating factors remain unknown. Here, we found that P6.9 could be categorized as unphosphorylated, hypophosphorylated, and hyperphosphorylated species and that a virus-encoded serine/threonine kinase, PK1, was essential for P6.9 hyperphosphorylation. Abundant PTM sites on P6.9 were identified, among which 7 Ser/Thr phosphorylated sites were PK1 dependent. Mutation of these Ser/Thr sites reduced very late viral gene transcription and viral infectivity, indicating that the PK1-mediated P6.9 hyperphosphorylation contributes to viral proliferation. These data suggest that a code exists in the sophisticated PTM of viral protamine-like proteins and participates in viral gene transcription.

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