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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) alters E2F1/Rb pathways and utilizes the E2F1 transcription factor to express viral genes.


PMID 24335704

Abstract

E2F transcription factors play pivotal roles in controlling the expression of genes involved in cell-cycle progression. Different viruses affect E2F1/retinoblastoma (Rb) interactions by diverse mechanisms releasing E2F1 from its suppressor Rb, enabling viral replication. We show that in T cells infected with human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A), the E2F1 protein and its cofactor DP1 increased, whereas the Rb protein underwent massive degradation without hyperphosphorylation at three sites known to control E2F/Rb association. Although E2F1 and DP1 increased without Rb suppression, the E2F1 target genes-including cyclin A, cyclin E, and dihydrofolate reductase-were not up-regulated. To test whether the E2F1/DP1 complexes were used for viral transcription, we scanned the viral genome for genes containing the E2F binding site in their promoters. In the present work, we concentrated on the U27 and U79 genes known to act in viral DNA synthesis. We constructed amplicon-6 vectors containing a GFP reporter gene driven by WT viral promoter or by promoter mutated in the E2F binding site. We found that the expression of the fusion U27 promoter was dependent on the presence of the E2F binding site. Test of the WT U79 promoter yielded >10-fold higher expression of the GFP reporter gene than the mutant U79 promoter with abrogated E2F binding site. Moreover, by using siRNA to E2F1, we found that E2F1 was essential for the activity of the U79 promoter. These findings revealed a unique pathway in HHV-6 replication: The virus causes Rb degradation and uses the increased E2F1 and DP1 factors to transcribe viral genes.