The mechanisms by which viruses persist and particularly those by which viruses actively contribute to their own latency have been elusive. Here we report the existence of opposing functions encoded by genes within a polycistronic locus of the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) genome that regulate cell type-dependent viral fates: replication and latency. The locus, referred to as the UL133-UL138 (UL133/8) locus, encodes four proteins, pUL133, pUL135, pUL136, and pUL138. As part of the ULb' region of the genome, the UL133/8 locus is lost upon serial passage of clinical strains of HCMV in cultured fibroblasts and is therefore considered dispensable for replication in this context. Strikingly, we could not reconstitute infection in permissive fibroblasts from bacterial artificial chromosome clones of the HCMV genome where UL135 alone was disrupted. The loss of UL135 resulted in complex phenotypes and could ultimately be overcome by infection at high multiplicities. The requirement for UL135 but not the entire locus led us to hypothesize that another gene in this locus suppressed virus replication in the absence of UL135. The defect associated with the loss of UL135 was largely rescued by the additional disruption of the UL138 latency determinant, indicating a requirement for UL135 for virus replication when UL138 is expressed. In the CD34(+) hematopoietic progenitor model of latency, viruses lacking only UL135 were defective for viral genome amplification and reactivation. Taken together, these data indicate that UL135 and UL138 comprise a molecular switch whereby UL135 is required to overcome UL138-mediated suppression of virus replication to balance states of latency and reactivation.
We previously described a novel genetic locus within the ULb' region of the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) genome that, while dispensable for replication in fibroblasts, suppresses replication in hematopoietic progenitors and augments replication in endothelial cells. This locus, referred to as the UL133-UL138 locus, encodes four proteins, pUL133, pUL135, pUL136, and pUL138. In this work, we have mapped the interactions among these proteins. An analysis of all pairwise interactions during transient expression revealed a robust interaction between pUL133 and pUL138. Potential interactions between pUL136 and both pUL133 and pUL138 were also revealed. In addition, each of the UL133-UL138 locus proteins self-associated, suggesting a potential to form higher-order homomeric complexes. As both pUL133 and pUL138 function in promoting viral latency in CD34(+) hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) infected in vitro, we further focused on this interaction. pUL133 and pUL138 are the predominant complex detected when all proteins are expressed together and require no other proteins in the locus for their association. During infection, the interaction between pUL133 and pUL138 or pUL136 can be detected. A recombinant virus that fails to express both pUL133 and pUL138 exhibited a latency phenotype similar to that of viruses that fail to express either pUL133 or pUL138, indicating that these proteins function cooperatively in latency and do not have independent functions that additively contribute to HCMV latency. These studies identify protein interactions among proteins encoded by the UL133-UL138 locus and demonstrate an important interaction impacting the outcome of HCMV infection.
Recent studies have shown that long-term persistence of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) in mononuclear cells of myeloid lineage is dependent on the UL138 open reading frame, which promotes latent infection. Although T-cell recognition of protein antigens from all stages of lytic HCMV infection is well established, it is not clear whether proteins expressed during latent HCMV infection can also be recognized. This study conducted an analysis of T-cell response towards proteins associated with HCMV latency. Ex vivo analysis of T cells from healthy virus carriers revealed a dominant CD8(+) T-cell response to the latency-associated pUL138 protein, which recognized a non-canonical 13 aa epitope in association with HLA-B*3501. These pUL138-specific T cells displayed a range of memory phenotypes that were in general less differentiated than that previously described in T cells specific for HCMV lytic antigens. Antigen-presentation assays revealed that endogenous pUL138 could be presented efficiently by HCMV-infected cells. However, T-cell recognition of pUL138 was dependent on newly synthesized protein, with little presentation from stable, long-lived protein. These data demonstrate that T cells targeting latency-associated protein products exist, although HCMV may limit the presentation of latent proteins, thereby restricting T-cell recognition of latently infected cells.
Herpesviruses persist indefinitely in their host through complex and poorly defined interactions that mediate latent, chronic or productive states of infection. Human cytomegalovirus (CMV or HCMV), a ubiquitous β-herpesvirus, coordinates the expression of two viral genes, UL135 and UL138, which have opposing roles in regulating viral replication. UL135 promotes reactivation from latency and virus replication, in part, by overcoming replication-suppressive effects of UL138. The mechanism by which UL135 and UL138 oppose one another is not known. We identified viral and host proteins interacting with UL138 protein (pUL138) to begin to define the mechanisms by which pUL135 and pUL138 function. We show that pUL135 and pUL138 regulate the viral cycle by targeting that same receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). EGFR is a major homeostatic regulator involved in cellular proliferation, differentiation, and survival, making it an ideal target for viral manipulation during infection. pUL135 promotes internalization and turnover of EGFR from the cell surface, whereas pUL138 preserves surface expression and activation of EGFR. We show that activated EGFR is sequestered within the infection-induced, juxtanuclear viral assembly compartment and is unresponsive to stress. Intriguingly, these findings suggest that CMV insulates active EGFR in the cell and that pUL135 and pUL138 function to fine-tune EGFR levels at the cell surface to allow the infected cell to respond to extracellular cues. Consistent with the role of pUL135 in promoting replication, inhibition of EGFR or the downstream phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) favors reactivation from latency and replication. We propose a model whereby pUL135 and pUL138 together with EGFR comprise a molecular switch that regulates states of latency and replication in HCMV infection by regulating EGFR trafficking to fine tune EGFR signaling.
The microbial community that colonizes all living organisms is gaining appreciation for its contributions to both physiologic and pathogenic processes. The virome, a subset of the overall microbiome, large and diverse, including viruses that persistently inhabit host cells, endogenous viral elements genomically or epigenomically integrated into cells, and viruses that infect the other (bacterial, protozoan, fungal, and archaeal) microbiome phylla. These viruses live in the organism for its life, and therefore are to be considered part of the aging process experienced by the organism. This review considers the impact of the persistent latent virome on immune aging. Specific attention will be devoted to the role of herpesviruses, and within them, the cytomegalovirus, as the key modulators of immune aging.