• The Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) non-structural membrane protein K15 is required for viral lytic replication and may represent a therapeutic target.

      Abere, Bizunesh; Mamo, Tamrat M; Hartmann, Silke; Samarina, Naira; Hage, Elias; Rückert, Jessica; Hotop, Sven-Kevin; Büsche, Guntram; Schulz, Thomas F; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-09)
      Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the infectious cause of the highly vascularized tumor Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), which is characterized by proliferating spindle cells of endothelial origin, extensive neo-angiogenesis and inflammatory infiltrates. The KSHV K15 protein contributes to the angiogenic and invasive properties of KSHV-infected endothelial cells. Here, we asked whether K15 could also play a role in KSHV lytic replication. Deletion of the K15 gene from the viral genome or its depletion by siRNA lead to reduced virus reactivation, as evidenced by the decreased expression levels of KSHV lytic proteins RTA, K-bZIP, ORF 45 and K8.1 as well as reduced release of infectious virus. Similar results were found for a K1 deletion virus. Deleting either K15 or K1 from the viral genome also compromised the ability of KSHV to activate PLCγ1, Erk1/2 and Akt1. In infected primary lymphatic endothelial (LEC-rKSHV) cells, which have previously been shown to spontaneously display a viral lytic transcription pattern, transfection of siRNA against K15, but not K1, abolished viral lytic replication as well as KSHV-induced spindle cell formation. Using a newly generated monoclonal antibody to K15, we found an abundant K15 protein expression in KS tumor biopsies obtained from HIV positive patients, emphasizing the physiological relevance of our findings. Finally, we used a dominant negative inhibitor of the K15-PLCγ1 interaction to establish proof of principle that pharmacological intervention with K15-dependent pathways may represent a novel approach to block KSHV reactivation and thereby its pathogenesis.
    • Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus vIRF2 protein utilizes an IFN-dependent pathway to regulate viral early gene expression.

      Koch, Sandra; Damas, Modester; Freise, Anika; Hage, Elias; Dhingra, Akshay; Rückert, Jessica; Gallo, Antonio; Kremmer, Elisabeth; Tegge, Werner; Brönstrup, Mark; et al. (PLOS, 2019-05-01)
      Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV; human herpesvirus 8) belongs to the subfamily of Gammaherpesvirinae and is the etiological agent of Kaposi's sarcoma as well as of two lymphoproliferative diseases: primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman disease. The KSHV life cycle is divided into a latent and a lytic phase and is highly regulated by viral immunomodulatory proteins which control the host antiviral immune response. Among them is a group of proteins with homology to cellular interferon regulatory factors, the viral interferon regulatory factors 1-4. The KSHV vIRFs are known as inhibitors of cellular interferon signaling and are involved in different oncogenic pathways. Here we characterized the role of the second vIRF protein, vIRF2, during the KSHV life cycle. We found the vIRF2 protein to be expressed in different KSHV positive cells with early lytic kinetics. Importantly, we observed that vIRF2 suppresses the expression of viral early lytic genes in both newly infected and reactivated persistently infected endothelial cells. This vIRF2-dependent regulation of the KSHV life cycle might involve the increased expression of cellular interferon-induced genes such as the IFIT proteins 1, 2 and 3, which antagonize the expression of early KSHV lytic proteins. Our findings suggest a model in which the viral protein vIRF2 allows KSHV to harness an IFN-dependent pathway to regulate KSHV early gene expression.