Us3 disrupts PML nuclear bodies through its interaction with KLHL21 to promote viral gene transcription in interferon-exposed cells
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Us3, a serine/threonine kinase encoded by all alphaherpesviruses, plays diverse roles during virus infection. Recently, work done in our laboratory determined that Us3 orthologues from herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) and pseudorabies virus (PRV) are capable of disrupting promyelocytic leukaemia (PML) protein nuclear bodies (-NBs). PML-NBs are discrete, dynamic nuclear bodies named for PML, their essential structural component and one that plays a key role in diverse cellular processes, including transcriptional regulation, apoptosis, and cellular antiviral defense. In infected cells, PML-NBs exert transcriptional silencing on the viral genome to prevent viral gene expression and virus replication. Based on this finding, my studies were aimed to understand the mechanism and physiological function of Us3-mediated PML-NB disruption. The degradation of one or more cellular proteins seems necessary for this Us3 activity, as the proteasome inhibitor, MG132, dramatically reduced Us3-mediated PML-NB disruption. The target of this proteasome activity is not likely PML protein, as Us3 expression did not lead to detectable PML protein degradation. Nonetheless, the involvement of proteasome activity suggests that Us3 may utilize the host ubiquitylation pathway to disrupt PML-NBs. Supporting this hypothesis, PRV and HSV-2 Us3 orthologues were shown to interact with KLHL21, a substrate adaptor protein for cullin-3 ubiquitin ligase. PRV and HSV-2 Us3 were re-localized to PML-NBs when co-expressed with KLHL21, and knock-down of KLHL21 prevented Us3-mediated PML-NB disruption. Taken together, these findings suggest that Us3-KLHL21 complex recruits the cullin-3 ubiquitin ligase to PML-NBs, where subsequent ubiquitylation of unknown target(s) leads to PML-NB disassembly. Since it is well established that PML is an important antiviral effector induced by interferon (IFN), Us3 may contribute to viral resistance to IFN by disrupting PML-NBs. Favoring this hypothesis, virus yield and viral gene transcription were dramatically reduced in IFN-exposed cells in the absence of Us3. These reductions were associated with an increased number of PML-NBs in the absence of Us3, and were partially recovered in cells knocked down for PML. Therefore, by disrupting PML-NBs, Us3 may alleviate IFN-induced, host-mediated transcriptional silencing of the viral genome, allowing efficient viral gene transcription and replication in cells exposed to IFN.