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Journal of virology

Retroviral DNA methylation and epigenetic repression are mediated by the antiviral host protein Daxx.


PMID 23221555

Abstract

Integrated retroviral DNA is subject to epigenetic transcriptional silencing at different frequencies. This process is mediated by repressive DNA methylation and histone modifications on viral chromatin. However, the detailed mechanisms by which retroviral silencing is initiated and maintained are not well understood. Using a model system in which avian sarcoma virus (ASV) DNA is epigenetically repressed in mammalian cells, we previously found that a cellular scaffolding protein, Daxx, acts as an antiretroviral factor that promotes epigenetic repression through recruitment of histone deacetylases (HDACs). Here we show that human Daxx protein levels are increased in response to retroviral infection and that Daxx acts at the time of infection to initiate epigenetic repression. Consistent with a rapid and active antiviral epigenetic response, we found that repressive histone marks and long terminal repeat (LTR) DNA methylation could be detected within 12 h to 3 days postinfection, respectively. Daxx was also found to be required for long-term ASV silencing maintenance and full viral DNA methylation, and it was physically associated with both viral DNA and DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs). These findings support a model in which incoming retroviral protein-DNA complexes are detected by Daxx, and the integrated provirus is rapidly chromatinized and repressed by DNA methylation and histone modification as part of an antiviral response. These results uncover a possible direct and active antiviral mechanism by which DNMTs can be recruited to retroviral DNA.