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Epstein-barr virus blocks the autophagic flux and appropriates the autophagic machinery to enhance viral replication.

Journal of virology (2014-08-22)
Marisa Granato, Roberta Santarelli, Antonella Farina, Roberta Gonnella, Lavinia Vittoria Lotti, Alberto Faggioni, Mara Cirone
ABSTRACT

Autophagy is a catabolic pathway that helps cells to survive under stressful conditions. Cells also use autophagy to clear microbiological infections, but microbes have learned how to manipulate the autophagic pathway for their own benefit. The experimental evidence obtained in this study suggests that the autophagic flux is blocked at the final steps during the reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) from latency. This is indicated by the level of the lipidated form of LC3 that does not increase in the presence of bafilomycin and by the lack of colocalization of autophagosomes with lysosomes, which correlates with reduced Rab7 expression. Since the inhibition of the early phases of autophagy impaired EBV replication and viral particles were observed in autophagic vesicles in the cytoplasm of producing cells, we suggest that EBV exploits the autophagic machinery for its transportation in order to enhance viral production. The autophagic block was not mediated by ZEBRA, an immediate-early EBV lytic gene, whose transfection in Ramos, Akata, and 293 cells promoted a complete autophagic flux. The block occurred only when the complete set of EBV lytic genes was expressed. We suggest that the inhibition of the early autophagic steps or finding strategies to overcome the autophagic block, allowing viral degradation into the lysosomes, can be exploited to manipulate EBV replication. This study shows, for the first time, that autophagy is blocked at the final degradative steps during EBV replication in several cell types. Through this block, EBV hijacks the autophagic vesicles for its intracellular transportation and enhances viral production. A better understanding of virus-host interactions could help in the design of new therapeutic approaches against EBV-associated malignancies.

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