Journal of virology

The herpes simplex virus 2 virion-associated ribonuclease vhs interferes with stress granule formation.

PMID 25142597


In a previous study, it was observed that cells infected with herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) failed to accumulate stress granules (SGs) in response to oxidative stress induced by arsenite treatment. As a follow-up to this observation, we demonstrate here that disruption of arsenite-induced SG formation by HSV-2 is mediated by a virion component. Through studies on SG formation in cells infected with HSV-2 strains carrying defective forms of UL41, the gene that encodes vhs, we identify vhs as a virion component required for this disruption. Cells infected with HSV-2 strains producing defective forms of vhs form SGs spontaneously late in infection. In addition to core SG components, these spontaneous SGs contain the viral immediate early protein ICP27 as well as the viral serine/threonine kinase Us3. As part of these studies, we reexamined the frameshift mutation known to reside within the UL41 gene of HSV-2 strain HG52. We demonstrate that this mutation is unstable and can rapidly revert to restore wild-type UL41 following low-multiplicity passaging. Identification of the involvement of virion-associated vhs in the disruption of SG formation will enable mechanistic studies on how HSV-2 is able to counteract antiviral stress responses early in infection. In addition, the ability of Us3 to localize to stress granules may indicate novel roles for this viral kinase in the regulation of translation. Eukaryotic cells respond to stress by rapidly shutting down protein synthesis and storing mRNAs in cytoplasmic stress granules (SGs). Stoppages in protein synthesis are problematic for all viruses as they rely on host cell machinery to synthesize viral proteins. Thus, many viruses target SGs for disruption or modification. Infection by herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) was previously observed to disrupt SG formation induced by oxidative stress. In this follow-up study, we identify virion host shutoff protein (vhs) as a viral protein involved in this disruption. The identification of a specific viral protein involved in disrupting SG formation is a key step toward understanding how HSV-2 interacts with these antiviral structures. Additionally, this understanding may provide insights into the biology of SGs that may find application in studies on human motor neuron degenerative diseases, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which may arise as a result of dysregulation of SG formation.