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1.  Suppressive Regulation of KSHV RTA with O-GlcNAcylation 
The replication and transcription activator (RTA) of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a molecular switch that initiates a productive replication of latent KSHV genomes. KSHV RTA (K-RTA) is composed of 691 amino acids with high Ser and Thr content (17.7%), but to what extent these Ser and Thr are modified in vivo has not been explored.
By using tandem mass spectrometric analysis of affinity-purified FLAG tagged K-RTA, we sought to identify Ser and Thr residues that are post-translationally modified in K-RTA.
We found that K-RTA is an O-GlcNAcylated protein and Thr-366/Thr-367 is the primary motif with O-GlcNAcylation in vivo. The biological significance of O-GlcNAc modified Thr-366 and Thr-367 was assessed by site-specific amino acid substitution. Replacement of Thr with Ala at amino acid 366 or 367 caused a modest enhancement of K-RTA transactivation activity in a luciferase reporter assay and a cell model for KSHV reactivation. By using co-immunoprecipitation coupled with western blot analysis, we showed that the capacity of K-RTA in associating with endogenous PARP1 was significantly reduced in the Thr-366/Thr-367 O-GlcNAc mutants. PARP1 is a documented negative regulator of K-RTA that can be ascribed by the attachment of large negatively charged polymer onto K-RTA via PARP1's poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase activity. In agreement, shRNA-mediated depletion of O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) in KSHV infected cells augmented viral reactivation and virus production that was accompanied by diminished K-RTA and PARP1 complexes.
KSHV latent-lytic switch K-RTA is modified by cellular O-GlcNAcylation, which imposes a negative effect on K-RTA transactivation activity. This inhibitory effect involves OGT and PARP1, two nutritional sensors recently emerging as chromatin modifiers. Thus, we speculate that the activity of K-RTA on its target genes is continuously checked and modulated by OGT and PARP1 in response to cellular metabolic state.
PMCID: PMC3395832  PMID: 22300411
KSHV; K-RTA; O-GlcNAcylation; PARP1; Polycomb group (PcG) complex
2.  Cellular Corepressor TLE2 Inhibits Replication-and-Transcription- Activator-Mediated Transactivation and Lytic Reactivation of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;84(4):2047-2062.
Replication and transcription activator (RTA) encoded by open reading frame 50 (ORF50) of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is essential and sufficient to initiate lytic reactivation. RTA activates its target genes through direct binding with high affinity to its responsive elements or by interaction with cellular factors, such as RBP-Jκ, Ap-1, C/EBP-α, and Oct-1. In this study, we identified transducin-like enhancer of split 2 (TLE2) as a novel RTA binding protein by using yeast two-hybrid screening of a human spleen cDNA library. The interaction between TLE2 and RTA was confirmed by glutathione S-transferase (GST) binding and coimmunoprecipitation assays. Immunofluorescence analysis showed that TLE2 and RTA were colocalized in the same nuclear compartment in KSHV-infected cells. This interaction recruited TLE2 to RTA bound to its recognition sites on DNA and repressed RTA auto-activation and transactivation activity. Moreover, TLE2 also inhibited the induction of lytic replication and virion production driven by RTA. We further showed that the Q (Gln-rich), SP (Ser-Pro-rich), and WDR (Trp-Asp repeat) domains of TLE2 and the Pro-rich domain of RTA were essential for this interaction. RBP-Jκ has been shown previously to bind to the same Pro-rich domain of RTA, and this binding can be subject to competition by TLE2. In addition, TLE2 can form a complex with RTA to access the cognate DNA sequence of the RTA-responsive element at different promoters. Intriguingly, the transcription level of TLE2 could be upregulated by RTA during the lytic reactivation process. In conclusion, we identified a new RTA binding protein, TLE2, and demonstrated that TLE2 inhibited replication and transactivation mediated by RTA. This provides another potentially important mechanism for maintenance of KSHV viral latency through interaction with a host protein.
PMCID: PMC2812399  PMID: 19939918
3.  Genome-wide identification of binding sites for Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus lytic switch protein, RTA 
Virology  2009;386(2):290-302.
Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) replication and transcription activator (RTA) encoded by ORF50 is a lytic switch protein for viral reactivation from latency. The expression of RTA activates the expression of downstream viral genes, and is necessary for triggering the full viral lytic program. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation assay coupled with a KSHV whole-genome tiling microarray (ChIP-on-chip) approach, we identified a set of 19 RTA binding sites in the KSHV genome in a KSHV-infected cell line BCBL-1. These binding sites are located in the regions of promoters, introns, or exons of KSHV genes including ORF8, ORFK4.1, ORFK5, PAN, ORF16, ORF29, ORF45, ORF50, ORFK8, ORFK10.1, ORF59, ORFK12, ORF71/72, ORFK14/ORF74, and ORFK15, the two origins of lytic replication OriLyt-L and OriLyt-R, and the microRNA cluster. We confirmed these RTA binding sites by ChIP and quantitative real-time PCR. We further mapped the RTA binding site in the first intron of the ORFK15 gene, and determined that it is RTA-responsive. The ORFK15 RTA binding sequence TTCCAGGAA TTCCTGGAA consists of a palindromic structure of two tandem repeats, of which each itself is also an imperfect inverted repeat. Reporter assay and electrophoretic mobility shift assay confirmed the binding of the RTA protein to this sequence in vitro. Sequence alignment with other RTA binding sites identified the RTA consensus binding motif as TTCCAGGAT(N)0–16TTCCTGGGA. Interestingly, most of the identified RTA binding sites contain only half or part of this RTA binding motif. These results suggest the complexity of RTA binding in vivo, and the involvements of other cellular or viral transcription factors during RTA transactivation of target genes.
PMCID: PMC2663009  PMID: 19233445
4.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus K-Rta Exhibits SUMO-Targeting Ubiquitin Ligase (STUbL) Like Activity and Is Essential for Viral Reactivation 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(8):e1003506.
The small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) is a protein that regulates a wide variety of cellular processes by covalent attachment of SUMO moieties to a diverse array of target proteins. Sumoylation also plays an important role in the replication of many viruses. Previously, we showed that Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) encodes a SUMO-ligase, K-bZIP, which catalyzes sumoylation of host and viral proteins. We report here that this virus also encodes a gene that functions as a SUMO-targeting ubiquitin-ligase (STUbL) which preferentially targets sumoylated proteins for degradation. K-Rta, the major transcriptional factor which turns on the entire lytic cycle, was recently found to have ubiquitin ligase activity toward a selected set of substrates. We show in this study that K-Rta contains multiple SIMs (SUMO interacting motif) and binds SUMOs with higher affinity toward SUMO-multimers. Like RNF4, the prototypic cellular STUbL, K-Rta degrades SUMO-2/3 and SUMO-2/3 modified proteins, including promyelocytic leukemia (PML) and K-bZIP. PML-NBs (nuclear bodies) or ND-10 are storage warehouses for sumoylated proteins, which negatively regulate herpesvirus infection, as part of the intrinsic immune response. Herpesviruses have evolved different ways to degrade or disperse PML bodies, and KSHV utilizes K-Rta to inhibit PML-NBs formation. This process depends on K-Rta's ability to bind SUMO, as a K-Rta SIM mutant does not effectively degrade PML. Mutations in the K-Rta Ring finger-like domain or SIM significantly inhibited K-Rta transactivation activity in reporter assays and in the course of viral reactivation. Finally, KSHV with a mutation in the Ring finger-like domain or SIM of K-Rta replicates poorly in culture, indicating that reducing SUMO-conjugates in host cells is important for viral replication. To our knowledge, this is the first virus which encodes both a SUMO ligase and a SUMO-targeting ubiquitin ligase that together may generate unique gene regulatory programs.
Author Summary
Protein modification by SUMO (small ubiquitin-like modifier), like phosphorylation, is now considered to be an important biochemical signal involved in nearly all cellular processes. Not surprisingly, it is also implicated in viral replication and host immune response. Timely turning on and off of SUMO signaling on viral and host proteins are important for virus to advance its replication. We previously described the identification of a viral SUMO E3 ligase encoded by Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), which couples SUMO to recipient proteins. Here we report the discovery of a SUMO-targeting E3 ubiquitin ligase (STUbL) like function, also encoded by this virus. K-Rta preferentially degrades sumoylated proteins such as PML (promyelocytic leukemia) which negatively regulates viral replication. KSHV K-Rta is well recognized as a strong transcriptional factor and a trigger for viral reactivation. Recombinant KSHVs defective in reducing cellular SUMO conjugates are significantly compromised in their reactivation activity. Our finding not only uncovers a novel function of the transcriptional factor, K-Rta, but also points to the importance of dynamic regulation of the SUMO environment in herpesvirus replication.
PMCID: PMC3749962  PMID: 23990779
5.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus/Human Herpesvirus 8 Transcriptional Activator Rta Is an Oligomeric DNA-Binding Protein That Interacts with Tandem Arrays of Phased A/T-Trinucleotide Motifs 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(17):9399-9411.
Kaposi's sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV)/human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) encodes an immediate early transcriptional activator, Rta, which mediates viral reactivation from latency and lytic viral replication. Here we report the purification and characterizations of HHV-8 Rta and its interaction with Rta-responsive DNA elements. The Rta response element (RtaRE) in the promoter of the KSHV/HHV-8 K8 open reading frame was mapped to a 47-bp sequence (RtaRE1) and a 60-bp sequence (RtaRE2) upstream of the TATA motif. A comparison of the K8 RtaREs with other viral RtaREs revealed a pattern of multiple A/T triplets spaced with a periodicity of 10 or 20 bp. Substitutions of the in-phase A/T trinucleotides of the RtaRE1 with G/C bases greatly diminished Rta responsiveness and Rta binding. By contrast, base substitutions in an out-of-phase A/T-trinucleotide sequence had no effect. Importantly, multimers of (A/T)3N7 and N5(A/T)5N6(A/T)4 motifs supported a strong Rta response in a copy number-dependent manner. No specific sequence motifs in the spacer regions could be discerned. Potent Rta response, however, was obtained with phased A/T trinucleotides with 7-bp spacers of arbitrary sequences with high G/C content. Lengthening of the phased A/T motifs or lowering of the G/C content of the spacers resulted in a reduction in Rta response. Finally, Escherichia coli-derived Rta is an oligomer of 440 kDa in molecular size and binds RtaRE as an oligomer. These results support a model of Rta transactivation wherein the subunits of the Rta oligomer make multiple contacts with a tandem array of phased A/T triplets in the configuration of (A/T)3(G/C)7 repeats.
PMCID: PMC187432  PMID: 12915555
6.  CCAAT/Enhancer-Binding Protein-α Is Induced during the Early Stages of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV) Lytic Cycle Reactivation and Together with the KSHV Replication and Transcription Activator (RTA) Cooperatively Stimulates the Viral RTA, MTA, and PAN Promoters 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(17):9590-9612.
During the immediate-early (IE) phase of reactivation from latency, the Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) replication and transcription activator protein (RTA) (or ORF50) is thought to be the most critical trigger that upregulates expression of many downstream viral lytic cycle genes, including the delayed-early (DE) gene encoding the replication-associated protein (RAP) (or K8). RAP physically interacts with and stabilizes the cellular transcription factor CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein-α (C/EBPα), leading to upregulated expression of the cellular C/EBPα and p21CIP-1 proteins followed by G0/G1 cell cycle arrest. Furthermore, RTA also interacts with C/EBPα, and both RAP and RTA cooperate with C/EBPα to activate the RAP promoter through binding to a strong proximal C/EBP binding site that also serves as an RTA-responsive element (RRE). Here we show that C/EBPα also activates the IE RTA promoter in transient-cotransfection reporter gene assays and that addition of either RTA or RAP enhances the effect. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay and deletion analysis revealed three C/EBP binding sites that mediate cooperative transactivation of the RTA promoter by C/EBPα and RTA. Furthermore, chromatin immunoprecipitation assay results showed that the endogenous C/EBPα, RTA, and RAP proteins all associate with RTA promoter sequences in tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate-induced primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) cells. Induction of endogenous KSHV RTA mRNA in PEL cells by exogenously introduced C/EBPα was confirmed by reverse transcription-PCR analysis and by double-label indirect immunofluorescence assays. Reciprocally, expression of exogenous RTA also led to an increase of endogenous C/EBPα expression that could be detected by Western immunoblot assays even in KSHV-negative DG75 cells. Cotransfected RTA also increased positive C/EBPα autoregulation of the C/EBPα promoter in transient-cotransfection reporter gene assays. Finally, C/EBPα proved to strongly activate the promoters of two other KSHV DE genes encoding PAN (polyadenylated nuclear) RNA and MTA (ORF57), which was again mediated by C/EBP binding sites that also contribute to RTA activation. Overall, these results support a model in which the cellular transcription factor C/EBPα and RTA:C/EBPα interactions play important roles both upstream and downstream of the two major KSHV regulatory proteins RTA and RAP during the early stages of lytic cycle reactivation.
PMCID: PMC187379  PMID: 12915572
7.  Role of CCAAT/Enhancer-Binding Protein Alpha (C/EBPα) in Activation of the Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV) Lytic-Cycle Replication-Associated Protein (RAP) Promoter in Cooperation with the KSHV Replication and Transcription Activator (RTA) and RAP 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(1):600-623.
The Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)-encoded replication-associated protein (RAP, or K8) has been shown to induce both CCAAT/enhancer binding protein alpha (C/EBPα) and p21CIP-1 expression, resulting in G0/G1 cell cycle arrest during the lytic cycle. RAP and C/EBPα are also known to interact strongly both in vitro and in lytically infected cells. We recognized two potential consensus C/EBP binding sites in the RAP promoter and performed electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) analysis with in vitro-translated C/EBPα; this analysis showed that one of these sites has a very high affinity for C/EBPα. Luciferase (LUC) assays performed with a target RAP promoter-LUC reporter gene confirmed that C/EBPα can transcriptionally activate the RAP promoter up to 50-fold. Although RAP had no effect on its own promoter by itself, the addition of RAP and C/EBPα together resulted in a threefold increase in activity over that obtained with C/EBPα alone. Importantly, the introduction of exogenous Flag-tagged C/EBPα triggered RAP expression in BCBL-1 cells latently infected with KSHV, as detected by both reverse transcription-PCR and double-label immunofluorescence assay analyses, suggesting the presence of a self-reinforcing loop with C/EBPα and RAP activating each other. The RAP promoter can also be activated 50- to 120-fold by the KSHV lytic-cycle-triggering protein known as replication and transcription activator (RTA). C/EBPα and RTA together cooperated to elevate RAP promoter activity four- to sixfold more than either alone. Furthermore, the addition of RAP, C/EBPα, and RTA in LUC reporter cotransfection assays resulted in 7- to 15-fold more activation than that seen with either C/EBPα or RTA alone. Site-specific mutational analysis of the RAP promoter showed that the strong C/EBP binding site is crucial for C/EBPα-mediated transactivation of the RAP promoter. However, the C/EBP binding site also overlaps the previously reported 16-bp RTA-responsive element (RRE), and the same mutation also both reduced RTA-mediated transactivation and abolished the cooperativity between C/EBPα and RTA. Furthermore, in vitro-translated RTA, although capable of binding directly to the polyadenylated nuclear RNA (PAN) RRE motif, failed to bind to the RAP RRE and interfered with RRE-bound C/EBPα in EMSA experiments. Partial RTA responsiveness but no cooperativity could be transferred to a heterologous promoter containing added consensus C/EBP binding sites. A chromatin immunoprecipitation assay showed that all three proteins associated specifically with RAP promoter DNA in vivo and that, when C/EBPα was removed from a tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate-treated JSC-1 primary effusion lymphoma cell lysate, the levels of association of RTA and RAP with the RAP promoter were reduced 3- and 13-fold, respectively. Finally, RTA also proved to physically interact with both C/EBPα and RAP, as assayed both in vitro and by immunoprecipitation. Binding to C/EBPα occurred within the N-terminal DNA binding domain of RTA, and deletion of a 17-amino-acid basic motif of RTA abolished both the C/EBPα and DNA binding activities as well as all RTA transactivation and the cooperativity with C/EBPα. Therefore, we suggest that RTA transactivation of the RAP RRE is mediated by an interaction with DNA-bound C/EBPα but that full activity requires more than just the core C/EBP binding site.
PMCID: PMC140597  PMID: 12477864
8.  Activation of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV) by Inhibitors of Class III Histone Deacetylases: Identification of Sirtuin 1 as a Regulator of the KSHV Life Cycle 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(11):6355-6367.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) establishes persistent latent infection in immunocompetent hosts. Disruption of KSHV latency results in viral lytic replication, which promotes the development of KSHV-related malignancies in immunocompromised individuals. While inhibitors of classes I and II histone deacetylases (HDACs) potently reactivate KSHV from latency, the role of class III HDAC sirtuins (SIRTs) in KSHV latency remains unclear. Here, we examined the effects of inhibitors of SIRTs, nicotinamide (NAM) and sirtinol, on KSHV reactivation from latency. Treatment of latently KSHV-infected cells with NAM or sirtinol induced transcripts and proteins of the master lytic transactivator RTA (ORF50), early lytic genes ORF57 and ORF59, and late lytic gene ORF65 and increased the production of infectious virions. NAM increased the acetylation of histones H3 and H4 as well as the level of the active histone H3 trimethyl Lys4 (H3K4me3) mark but decreased the level of the repressive histone H3 trimethyl Lys27 (H3K27me3) mark in the RTA promoter. Consistent with these results, we detected SIRT1 binding to the RTA promoter. Importantly, knockdown of SIRT1 was sufficient to increase the expression of KSHV lytic genes. Accordingly, the level of the H3K4me3 mark in the RTA promoter was increased following SIRT1 knockdown, while that of the H3K27me3 mark was decreased. Furthermore, SIRT1 interacted with RTA and inhibited RTA transactivation of its own promoter and that of its downstream target, the viral interleukin-6 gene. These results indicate that SIRT1 regulates KSHV latency by inhibiting different stages of viral lytic replication and link the cellular metabolic state with the KSHV life cycle.
IMPORTANCE Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the causal agent of several malignancies, including Kaposi's sarcoma, commonly found in immunocompromised patients. While latent infection is required for the development of KSHV-induced malignancies, viral lytic replication also promotes disease progression. However, the mechanism controlling KSHV latent versus lytic replication remains unclear. In this study, we found that class III histone deacetylases (HDACs), also known as SIRTs, whose activities are linked to the cellular metabolic state, mediate KSHV replication. Inhibitors of SIRTs can reactivate KSHV from latency. SIRTs mediate KSHV latency by epigenetically silencing a key KSHV lytic replication activator, RTA. We found that one of the SIRTs, SIRT1, binds to the RTA promoter to mediate KSHV latency. Knockdown of SIRT1 is sufficient to induce epigenetic remodeling and KSHV lytic replication. SIRT1 also interacts with RTA and inhibits RTA's transactivation function, preventing the expression of its downstream genes. Our results indicate that SIRTs regulate KSHV latency by inhibiting different stages of viral lytic replication and link the cellular metabolic state with the KSHV life cycle.
PMCID: PMC4093851  PMID: 24672028
9.  Identification of a Cellular Protein That Interacts and Synergizes with the RTA (ORF50) Protein of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus in Transcriptional Activation 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(24):11961-11973.
Lytic reactivation of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), or human herpesvirus 8, from latency requires transcriptional transactivation by the viral protein RTA encoded by the ORF50 gene. Very little is known about how RTA functions and the cellular factors that may be involved in its transactivation function. Using the yeast two-hybrid system, we have identified a human cellular protein that can interact with KSHV RTA. The cellular protein, referred to as the human hypothetical protein MGC2663 by GenBank, is encoded by human chromosome 19. This protein is 554 amino acids (aa) in size and displays sequence similarity with members of the Krueppel-associated box–zinc finger proteins (KRAB-ZFPs). MGC2663 expression could be detected in all primate cell lines tested, and its expression level was neither stimulated nor inhibited by RTA. MGC2663 specifically synergizes with RTA to activate viral transcription, and overexpression of MGC2663 in the presence of RTA further enhances RTA transactivation of several viral promoters that were identified as targets for RTA. Coimmunoprecipitation and pull-down assays further demonstrated that MGC2663 interacts with RTA both in vivo and in vitro, and the N-terminal 273 aa of KSHV RTA and the potential zinc finger domain of MGC2663 are required for their interaction. Our results indicate that this novel human cellular protein, MGC2663, named K-RBP (KSHV RTA binding protein) due to its RTA binding feature, specifically interacts with the KSHV RTA protein and functions as a cellular RTA cofactor to activate viral gene expression. Though its normal cellular function needs to be further studied, K-RBP may play a significant role in mediating RTA transactivation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC116091  PMID: 11711586
10.  The Cellular Peptidyl-Prolyl cis/trans Isomerase Pin1 Regulates Reactivation of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus from Latency 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(1):547-558.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) causes Kaposi's sarcoma and primary effusion lymphoma. KSHV-infected cells are predominantly latent, with a subset undergoing lytic reactivation. Rta is the essential lytic switch protein that reactivates virus by forming transactivation-competent complexes with the Notch effector protein RBP-Jk and promoter DNA. Strikingly, Rta homolog analysis reveals that prolines constitute 17% of conserved residues. Rta is also highly phosphorylated in vivo. We previously demonstrated that proline content determines Rta homotetramerization and function. We hypothesize that proline-directed modifications regulate Rta function by controlling binding to peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans isomerases (PPIases). Cellular PPIase Pin1 binds specifically to phosphoserine- or phosphothreonine-proline (pS/T-P) motifs in target proteins. Pin1 dysregulation is implicated in myriad human cancers and can be subverted by viruses. Our data show that KSHV Rta protein contains potential pS/T-P motifs and binds directly to Pin1. Rta transactivation is enhanced by Pin1 at two delayed early viral promoters in uninfected cells. Pin1's effect, however, suggests a rheostat-like influence on Rta function. We show that in infected cells, endogenous Pin1 is active during reactivation and enhances Rta-dependent early protein expression induced by multiple signals, as well as DNA replication. Surprisingly, ablation of Pin1 activity by the chemical juglone or dominant-negative Pin1 enhanced late gene expression and production of infectious virus, while ectopic Pin1 showed inhibitory effects. Our data thus suggest that Pin1 is a unique, dose-dependent molecular timer that enhances Rta protein function, but inhibits late gene synthesis and virion production, during KSHV lytic reactivation.
PMCID: PMC3911720  PMID: 24173213
11.  Identification of Direct Transcriptional Targets of the Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Rta Lytic Switch Protein by Conditional Nuclear Localization▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(21):10709-10723.
Lytic reactivation from latency is critical for the pathogenesis of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). We previously demonstrated that the 691-amino-acid (aa) KSHV Rta transcriptional transactivator is necessary and sufficient to reactivate the virus from latency. Viral lytic cycle genes, including those expressing additional transactivators and putative oncogenes, are induced in a cascade fashion following Rta expression. In this study, we sought to define Rta's direct targets during reactivation by generating a conditionally nuclear variant of Rta. Wild-type Rta protein is constitutively localized to cell nuclei and contains two putative nuclear localization signals (NLSs). Only one NLS (NLS2; aa 516 to 530) was required for the nuclear localization of Rta, and it relocalized enhanced green fluorescent protein exclusively to cell nuclei. The results of analyses of Rta NLS mutants demonstrated that proper nuclear localization of Rta was required for transactivation and the stimulation of viral reactivation. RTA with NLS1 and NLS2 deleted was fused to the hormone-binding domain of the murine estrogen receptor to generate an Rta variant whose nuclear localization and ability to transactivate and induce reactivation were tightly controlled posttranslationally by the synthetic hormone tamoxifen. We used this strategy in KSHV-infected cells treated with protein synthesis inhibitors to identify direct transcriptional targets of Rta. Rta activated only eight KSHV genes in the absence of de novo protein synthesis. These direct transcriptional targets of Rta were transactivated to different levels and included the genes nut-1/PAN, ORF57/Mta, ORF56/Primase, K2/viral interleukin-6 (vIL-6), ORF37/SOX, K14/vOX, K9/vIRF1, and ORF52. Our data suggest that the induction of most of the KSHV lytic cycle genes requires additional protein expression after the expression of Rta.
PMCID: PMC2573185  PMID: 18715905
12.  Phosphorylation of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Processivity Factor ORF59 by a Viral Kinase Modulates Its Ability To Associate with RTA and oriLyt 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(14):8038-8052.
ORF59 of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) plays an essential role in viral lytic replication by providing DNA processivity activity to the viral DNA polymerase (ORF9). ORF59 forms a homodimer in the cytoplasm and binds and translocates ORF9 into the nucleus, where it secures ORF9 to the origin of lytic DNA replication (oriLyt) in order to synthesize long DNA fragments during replication. ORF59 binds to oriLyt through an immediate early protein, replication and transcription activator (RTA). Here, we show that viral kinase (ORF36) phosphorylates serines between amino acids 376 and 379 of ORF59 and replacement of the Ser378 residue with alanine significantly impairs phosphorylation. Although mutating these serine residues had no effect on binding between ORF59 and ORF9, viral polymerase, or ORF36, the viral kinase, it significantly reduced the ability of ORF59 to bind to RTA. The results for the mutant in which Ser376 to Ser379 were replaced by alanine showed that both Ser378 and Ser379 contribute to binding to RTA. Additionally, the Ser376, Ser378, and Ser379 residues were found to be critical for binding of ORF59 to oriLyt and its processivity function. Ablation of these phosphorylation sites reduced the production of virion particles, suggesting that phosphorylation is critical for ORF59 activity and viral DNA synthesis.
PMCID: PMC3700218  PMID: 23678174
13.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Rta Tetramers Make High-Affinity Interactions with Repetitive DNA Elements in the Mta Promoter To Stimulate DNA Binding of RBP-Jk/CSL ▿ † 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(22):11901-11915.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV; also known as human herpesvirus 8 [HHV-8]) is the etiologic agent of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) and lymphoproliferative diseases. We previously demonstrated that the KSHV lytic switch protein Rta stimulates DNA binding of the cellular RBP-Jk/CSL protein, the nuclear component of the Notch pathway, on Rta target promoters. In the current study, we define the promoter requirements for formation of transcriptionally productive Rta/RBP-Jk/DNA complexes. We show that highly pure Rta footprints 7 copies of a previously undescribed repetitive element in the promoter of the essential KSHV Mta gene. We have termed this element the “CANT repeat.” CANT repeats are found on both strands of DNA and have a consensus sequence of ANTGTAACANT(A/T)(A/T)T. We demonstrate that Rta tetramers make high-affinity interactions (i.e., nM) with 64 bp of the Mta promoter but not single CANT units. The number of CANT repeats, their presence in palindromes, and their positions relative to the RBP-Jk binding site determine the optimal target for Rta stimulation of RBP-Jk DNA binding and formation of ternary Rta/RBP-Jk/DNA complexes. DNA binding and tetramerization mutants of Rta fail to stimulate RBP-Jk DNA binding. Our chromatin immunoprecipitation assays show that RBP-Jk DNA binding is broadly, but selectively, stimulated across the entire KSHV genome during reactivation. We propose a model in which tetramerization of Rta allows it to straddle RBP-Jk and contact repeat units on both sides of RBP-Jk. Our study integrates high-affinity Rta DNA binding with the requirement for a cellular transcription factor in Rta transactivation.
PMCID: PMC3209305  PMID: 21880753
14.  Early Activation of the Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus RTA, RAP, and MTA Promoters by the Tetradecanoyl Phorbol Acetate-Induced AP1 Pathway 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(8):4248-4267.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) maintains a latent infection in primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) cells, but treatment with tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate (TPA) can trigger the full lytic-cycle replication in some of these cells. During lytic-cycle replication, the KSHV-encoded replication and transcription activator (RTA or ORF50), the mRNA transport and accumulation protein (MTA), and the replication-associated protein (RAP) all play crucial roles in expression of downstream viral genes as well as in mediation of viral DNA replication. The cellular CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein alpha (C/EBPα) is induced in TPA-treated PEL cells and contributes to transactivation of the promoters for all of these genes through both direct binding and cooperative interactions with RTA and RAP targeted to upstream C/EBP sites. However, little is known about how RTA expression is triggered initially at the earliest stages after TPA induction when the C/EBPα levels are still limited. Treatment with TPA proved to significantly induce both AP1 DNA-binding activity and levels of activated phosphorylated cJUN in PEL cells and ectopic expression of cJUN-plus-cFOS-induced RTA protein expression in PEL cells. Cotransfected cJUN plus cFOS or TPA treatment transactivated the KSHV RTA, RAP, and MTA promoters in an AP1-binding site-dependent manner in all three promoters. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays confirmed that cJUN associates with these KSHV target promoters in PEL cells as early as 4 h after TPA treatment. Furthermore, the KSHV RTA and RAP proteins both interact with cJUN or both cJUN and cFOS in vitro or by coimmunoprecipitation from induced PEL cells and enhance cJUN-plus-cFOS-mediated transactivation of these viral promoters. Both increased phosphorylated cJUN and AP1 DNA-binding activity was detected as early as 1 h after TPA treatment in PEL cells, suggesting that AP1 activity may be crucial for very early activation of the RAP, MTA, and RTA promoters during the KSHV lytic cycle. Finally, expression of RTA alone increased cJUN protein levels severalfold in DG75 cells but did not induce cJUN phosphorylation. Therefore, we suggest that the initiating effects of TPA via the AP1 pathway in PEL cells need to be amplified by RTA for full lytic-cycle induction.
PMCID: PMC374264  PMID: 15047839
15.  NF-κB Serves as a Cellular Sensor of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Latency and Negatively Regulates K-Rta by Antagonizing the RBP-Jκ Coactivator▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(9):4435-4446.
Successful viral replication is dependent on a conducive cellular environment; thus, viruses must be sensitive to the state of their host cells. We examined the idea that an interplay between viral and cellular regulatory factors determines the switch from Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) latency to lytic replication. The immediate-early gene product K-Rta is the first viral protein expressed and an essential factor in reactivation; accordingly, this viral protein is in a key position to serve as a viral sensor of cellular physiology. Our approach aimed to define a host transcription factor, i.e., host sensor, which modulates K-Rta activity on viral promoters. To this end, we developed a panel of reporter plasmids containing all 83 putative viral promoters for a comprehensive survey of the response to both K-Rta and cellular transcription factors. Interestingly, members of the NF-κB family were shown to be strong negative regulators of K-Rta transactivation for all but two viral promoters (Ori-RNA and K12). Recruitment of K-Rta to the ORF57 and K-bZIP promoters, but not the K12 promoter, was significantly impaired when NF-κB expression was induced. Many K-Rta-responsive promoters modulated by NF-κB contain the sequence of the RBP-Jκ binding site, a major coactivator which anchors K-Rta to target promoters via consensus motifs which overlap with that of NF-κB. Gel shift assays demonstrated that NF-κB inhibits the binding of RBP-Jκ and forms a complex with RBP-Jκ. Our results support a model in which a balance between K-Rta/RBP-Jκ and NF-κB activities determines KSHV reactivation. An important feature of this model is that the interplay between RBP-Jκ and NF-κB on viral promoters controls viral gene expression mediated by K-Rta.
PMCID: PMC2668470  PMID: 19244329
16.  β-Adrenoreceptors Reactivate Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Lytic Replication via PKA-Dependent Control of Viral RTA 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(21):13538-13547.
Reactivation of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) lytic replication is mediated by the viral RTA transcription factor, but little is known about the physiological processes controlling its expression or activity. Links between autonomic nervous system activity and AIDS-associated Kaposi's sarcoma led us to examine the potential influence of catecholamine neurotransmitters. Physiological concentrations of epinephrine and norepinephrine efficiently reactivated lytic replication of KSHV in latently infected primary effusion lymphoma cells via β-adrenergic activation of the cellular cyclic AMP/protein kinase A (PKA) signaling pathway. Effects were blocked by PKA antagonists and mimicked by pharmacological and physiological PKA activators (prostaglandin E2 and histamine) or overexpression of the PKA catalytic subunit. PKA up-regulated RTA gene expression, enhanced activity of the RTA promoter, and posttranslationally enhanced RTA's trans-activating capacity for its own promoter and heterologous lytic promoters (e.g., the viral PAN gene). Mutation of predicted phosphorylation targets at RTA serines 525 and 526 inhibited PKA-mediated enhancement of RTA trans-activating capacity. Given the high catecholamine levels at sites of KSHV latency such as the vasculature and lymphoid organs, these data suggest that β-adrenergic control of RTA might constitute a significant physiological regulator of KSHV lytic replication. These findings also suggest novel therapeutic strategies for controlling the activity of this oncogenic gammaherpesvirus in vivo.
PMCID: PMC1262578  PMID: 16227274
17.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus RTA Promotes Degradation of the Hey1 Repressor Protein through the Ubiquitin Proteasome Pathway▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(13):6727-6738.
The Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) replication and transcription activator (RTA) protein regulates the latent-lytic switch by transactivating a variety of KSHV lytic and cellular promoters. RTA is a novel E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets a number of transcriptional repressor proteins for degradation by the ubiquitin proteasome pathway. Herein, we show that RTA interacts with the cellular transcriptional repressor protein Hey1. We demonstrate that Hey1 is a target for RTA-mediated ubiquitination and is subsequently degraded by the proteasome. Moreover, a Cys-plus-His-rich region within RTA is important for RTA-mediated degradation of Hey1. We confirm that Hey1 represses the RTA promoter and, furthermore, show that Hey1 binds to the RTA promoter. An interaction was observed between Hey1 and the corepressor mSin3A, and this interaction was abolished in the presence of RTA. Additionally, mSin3A associated with the RTA promoter in nonreactivated, but not reactivated, BCBL1 cells. Small interfering RNA knockdown of Hey1 in HEK 293T cells latently infected with the recombinant virus rKSHV.219 led to increased levels of RTA expression upon reactivation but was insufficient to induce complete lytic reactivation. These results suggest that other additional transcriptional repressors are also important in maintenance of KSHV latency. Taken together, our results suggest that Hey1 has a contributory role in the maintenance of KSHV latency and that disruption of the Hey1 repressosome by RTA-targeted degradation may be one step in the mechanism to regulate lytic reactivation.
PMCID: PMC2698570  PMID: 19369342
18.  The Transcriptional Repressor K-RBP Modulates RTA-Mediated Transactivation and Lytic Replication of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(12):6294-6306.
The replication and transcription activator (RTA) protein of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS)-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)/human herpesvirus 8 functions as the key regulator to induce KSHV lytic replication from latency through activation of the lytic cascade of KSHV. Elucidation of the host factors involved in RTA-mediated transcriptional activation is pivotal for understanding the transition between viral latency and lytic replication. KSHV-RTA binding protein (K-RBP) was previously isolated as a cellular RTA binding protein of unknown function. Sequence analysis showed that K-RBP contains a Kruppel-associated box (KRAB) at the N terminus and 12 adjacent zinc finger motifs. In similarity to other KRAB-containing zinc finger proteins, K-RBP is a transcriptional repressor. Mutational analysis revealed that the KRAB domain is responsible for the transcriptional suppression activity of this protein and that the repression is histone deacetylase independent. K-RBP was found to repress RTA-mediated transactivation and interact with TIF1β (transcription intermediary factor 1β), a common corepressor of KRAB-containing protein, to synergize with K-RBP in repression. Overexpression and knockdown experiment results suggest that K-RBP is a suppressor of RTA-mediated KSHV reactivation. Our findings suggest that the KRAB-containing zinc finger protein K-RBP can suppress RTA-mediated transactivation and KSHV lytic replication and that KSHV utilizes this protein as a regulator to maintain a balance between latency and lytic replication.
PMCID: PMC1900108  PMID: 17409159
19.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus ori-Lyt-Dependent DNA Replication: Dual Role of Replication and Transcription Activator▿  
Journal of Virology  2006;80(24):12171-12186.
Lytic replication of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is essential for viral propagation and pathogenicity. In Kaposi's sarcoma lesions, constant lytic replication plays a role in sustaining the population of latently infected cells that otherwise are quickly lost by segregation of latent viral episomes as spindle cells divide. Lytic DNA replication initiates from an origin (ori-Lyt) and requires trans-acting elements. Two functional ori-Lyts have been identified in the KSHV genome. Some cis-acting and trans-acting elements for ori-Lyt-dependent DNA replication have been found. Among these, K8 binding sites, a cluster of C/EBP binding motifs, and a replication and transcription activator (RTA) responsive element (RRE) are crucial cis-acting elements. Binding of K8 and RTA proteins to these motifs in ori-Lyt DNA was demonstrated to be absolutely essential for DNA replication. In the present study, functional roles of RTA in ori-Lyt-dependent DNA replication have been investigated. Two distinct functions of RTA were revealed. First, RTA activates an ori-Lyt promoter and initiates transcription across GC-rich tandem repeats. This RTA-mediated transcription is indispensable for DNA replication. Second, RTA is a component of the replication compartment, where RTA interacts with prereplication complexes composed of at least six core machinery proteins and K8. The prereplication complexes are recruited to ori-Lyt DNA through RTA, which interacts with the RRE, as well as K8, which binds to a cluster of C/EBP binding motifs with the aid of C/EBP α. The revelation of these two functions of RTA, together with its role in initiation of a transcriptional cascade that leads to transcription of all viral lytic genes, shows that RTA is a critical initiator and regulator of KSHV lytic DNA replication and viral propagation.
PMCID: PMC1676287  PMID: 17020951
20.  Comparison of the Rta/Orf50 Transactivator Proteins of Gamma-2-Herpesviruses 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(10):5491-5499.
The viral immediate-early transactivator Rta/Orf50 is necessary and sufficient to initiate Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus/human herpesvirus 8 (KSHV/HHV-8) reactivation from latently infected cells. Since Rta/Orf50 is conserved among all known gamma-2-herpesviruses, we investigated whether the murine gamma-68-herpesvirus (MHV-68) and rhesus monkey rhadinovirus (RRV) homologs can functionally substitute for KSHV Rta/Orf50. (i) Our comparison of 12 KSHV promoters showed that most responded to all three Rta/Orf50proteins, but three promoters (vGPCR, K8, and gB) responded only to the KSHV Rta/Orf50 transactivator. Overall, the activation of KSHV promoters was higher with KSHV Rta than with the RRV and MHV-68 Rta. (ii) Only the primate Rta/Orf50 homologs were able to interfere with human p53-depedent transcriptional activation. (iii) Transcriptional profiling showed that the KSHV Rta/Orf50 was more efficient than it's homologs in inducing KSHV lytic transcription from the latent state. These results suggest that the core functionality of Rta/Orf50 is conserved and independent of its host, but the human protein has evolved additional, human-specific capabilities.
PMCID: PMC400334  PMID: 15113928
21.  Interaction of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus ORF59 with oriLyt Is Dependent on Binding with K-Rta ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(8):3833-3841.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)/human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) displays two distinct life stages, latency and lytic reactivation. Progression through the lytic cycle and replication of the viral genome constitute an essential step toward the production of infectious virus and human disease. KSHV K-RTA has been shown to be the major transactivator required for the initiation of lytic reactivation. In the transient-cotransfection replication assay, K-Rta is the only noncore protein required for DNA synthesis. K-Rta was shown to interact with both C/EBPα binding motifs and the R response elements (RRE) within oriLyt. It is postulated that K-Rta acts in part to facilitate the recruitment of replication factors to oriLyt. In order to define the role of K-Rta in the initiation of lytic DNA synthesis, we show an interaction with ORF59, the DNA polymerase processivity factor (PF), one of the eight virally encoded proteins necessary for origin-dependent DNA replication. Using the chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay, both K-Rta and ORF59 interact with the RRE and C/EBPα binding motifs within oriLyt in cells harboring the KSHV bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC). A transient-transfection ChIP assay demonstrated that the interaction of ORF59 with oriLyt is dependent on binding with K-Rta and that ORF59 fails to bind to oriLyt in the absence of K-Rta. Also, using the cotransfection replication assay, overexpression of the interaction domain of K-Rta with ORF59 has a dominant negative effect on oriLyt amplification, suggesting that the interaction of K-Rta with ORF59 is essential for DNA synthesis and supporting the hypothesis that K-Rta facilitates the formation of a replication complex at oriLyt.
PMCID: PMC3126130  PMID: 21289111
22.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus K-bZIP Is a Coregulator of K-Rta: Physical Association and Promoter-Dependent Transcriptional Repression 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(2):1441-1451.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a human gammaherpesvirus that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Kaposi's sarcoma and B-cell neoplasms. The genomic organization of KSHV is similar to that of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV encodes two transcriptional factors, Rta and Zta, which functionally interact to transactivate EBV genes during replication and reactivation from latency. KSHV encodes a basic leucine zipper protein (K-bZIP), a homologue of EBV Zta, and K-Rta, the homologue of EBV Rta. EBV Rta and Zta are strong transcriptional transactivators. Although there is ample evidence that K-Rta is a potent transactivator, the role of K-bZIP as a transcriptional factor is much less clear. In this study, we report that K-bZIP modulates K-Rta function. We show that K-bZIP directly interacts with K-Rta in vivo and in vitro. This association is specific, requiring the basic domain (amino acids 122 to 189) of K-bZIP and a specific region (amino acids 499 to 550) of K-Rta, and can be detected with K-bZIP and K-Rta endogenously expressed in BCBL-1 cells treated with tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate. The functional relevance of this association was revealed by the observation that K-bZIP represses the transactivation of the ORF57 promoter by K-Rta in a dose-dependent manner. K-bZIP lacking the interaction domain fails to repress K-Rta-mediated transactivation; this finding attests to the specificity of the repression. Interestingly, this repression is not observed for the promoter of polyadenylated nuclear (PAN) RNA, another target of K-Rta; thus, repression is promoter dependent. Finally, we provide evidence that the modulation of K-Rta by K-bZIP also occurs in vivo during reactivation of the viral genome in BCBL-1 cells. When K-bZIP is overexpressed in BCBL-1 cells, the level of expression of ORF57 but not PAN RNA is repressed. These data support the model that one function of K-bZIP is to modulate the activity of the transcriptional transactivator K-Rta.
PMCID: PMC140808  PMID: 12502859
23.  Abortive Lytic Reactivation of KSHV in CBF1/CSL Deficient Human B Cell Lines 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(5):e1003336.
Since Kaposi's sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV) establishes a persistent infection in human B cells, B cells are a critical compartment for viral pathogenesis. RTA, the replication and transcription activator of KSHV, can either directly bind to DNA or use cellular DNA binding factors including CBF1/CSL as DNA adaptors. In addition, the viral factors LANA1 and vIRF4 are known to bind to CBF1/CSL and modulate RTA activity. To analyze the contribution of CBF1/CSL to reactivation in human B cells, we have successfully infected DG75 and DG75 CBF1/CSL knock-out cell lines with recombinant KSHV.219 and selected for viral maintenance by selective medium. Both lines maintained the virus irrespective of their CBF1/CSL status. Viral reactivation could be initiated in both B cell lines but viral genome replication was attenuated in CBF1/CSL deficient lines, which also failed to produce detectable levels of infectious virus. Induction of immediate early, early and late viral genes was impaired in CBF1/CSL deficient cells at multiple stages of the reactivation process but could be restored to wild-type levels by reintroduction of CBF1/CSL. To identify additional viral RTA target genes, which are directly controlled by CBF1/CSL, we analyzed promoters of a selected subset of viral genes. We show that the induction of the late viral genes ORF29a and ORF65 by RTA is strongly enhanced by CBF1/CSL. Orthologs of ORF29a in other herpesviruses are part of the terminase complex required for viral packaging. ORF65 encodes the small capsid protein essential for capsid shell assembly. Our study demonstrates for the first time that in human B cells viral replication can be initiated in the absence of CBF1/CSL but the reactivation process is severely attenuated at all stages and does not lead to virion production. Thus, CBF1/CSL acts as a global hub which is used by the virus to coordinate the lytic cascade.
Author Summary
Kaposi's sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV) establishes a life-long persistent infection in B cells, which constitute the viral reservoir for reactivation and production of progeny virus. Viral reactivation is associated with multiple AIDS related malignancies including Kaposi's sarcoma, an endothelial tumor, and two B cell lymphoproliferative malignancies, the primary effusion lymphoma and the multicentric Castleman's disease. CBF1/CSL is a cellular DNA binding protein that can recruit transactivators or repressors to regulatory sites in the viral and cellular genome. The replication and transcription activator (RTA) plays an essential role in the switch between latency and lytic reactivation. RTA can either bind to DNA directly or is recruited to DNA via anchor proteins like CBF1/CSL and activates transcription. In this study we used a novel cell culture model to analyze the contribution of the CBF1/CSL protein to the process of viral reactivation in human B cells. Two isogenic CBF1/CSL proficient or deficient B cell lines were latently infected with recombinant KSHV. Lytic viral gene expression, viral replication and virus production were compared. Our results suggest that viral lytic gene expression is severely attenuated but not abolished at multiple stages before and after the onset of lytic replication while virus production is below detection levels in CBF1/CSL deficient B cells.
PMCID: PMC3656114  PMID: 23696732
24.  Identification and characterization of a new Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus replication and transcription activator (RTA)-responsive element involved in RTA-mediated transactivation 
The Journal of general virology  2009;90(Pt 4):944-953.
Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) replication and transcription activator (RTA) is well established as a key transcriptional activator that regulates the KSHV life cycle from latency to lytic replication. It is expressed immediately after infection and activates a number of viral genes leading to virus replication. The RTA-responsive element (RRE) in the RTA target gene promoters is critical for RTA to mediate this transactivation. A number of non-conserved RREs have been identified in various RTA-responsive promoters, and AT-rich sequences have been proposed to serve as RTA targets, but no consensus RRE sequence has been identified so far. Two nonconserved RREs (RRE1 and RRE2) containing AT-rich sequences have been identified previously in the promoter of one of the KSHV lytic genes, ORF57, which can be strongly activated by RTA. Based on homology with the consensus sequence of the Epstein–Barr virus Rta RRE, this study identified a third RTA-responsive element (RRE3) in the ORF57 promoter. This RRE comprised a GC-rich sequence that could bind RTA both in vitro and in vivo, and plays a role in RTA-mediated transactivation of the ORF57 promoter. The presence of two of the three RREs in close proximity to each other was required for optimal RTA-mediated transactivation of the ORF57 promoter, even though the presence of only one RRE is needed for RTA binding. These results suggest that the ability of RTA to mediate transcriptional activation is distinct from its ability to bind to its target elements.
PMCID: PMC2889438  PMID: 19223488
25.  Comparative Study of Regulation of RTA-Responsive Genes in Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus/Human Herpesvirus 8 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(17):9451-9462.
Replication and transcription activator (RTA) (also referred to as ORF50), an immediate-early gene product of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)/(human herpesvirus 8), plays a critical role in balancing the viral life cycle between latency and lytic replication. RTA has been shown to act as a strong transcription activator for several downstream genes of KSHV. Direct binding of RTA to DNA is thought to be one of the important mechanisms for transactivation of target genes, while indirect mechanisms are also implicated in RTA transactivation of certain selected genes. This study demonstrated direct binding of the DNA-binding domain of RTA (Rdbd) to a Kaposin (Kpsn) promoter sequence, which is highly homologous to the RTA-responsive element (RRE) of the PAN promoter. We undertook a comparative study of the RREs of PAN RNA, ORF57, vIL-6, and Kpsn to understand how RTA regulates gene expression during lytic replication. Comparing RNA abundance and transcription initiation rates of these RTA target genes in virus-infected cells suggested that the transcription initiation rate of the promoters is a major determinant of viral gene expression, rather than stability of the transcripts. RTA-mediated transactivation of reporters containing each RRE showed that their promoter strengths in a transient-transfection system were comparable to their transcription rates during reactivation. Moreover, our electrophoretic mobility shift assays of each RRE demonstrated that the highly purified Rdbd protein directly bound to the RREs. Based on these results, we conclude that direct binding of RTA to these target sequences contributes to their gene expression to various extents during the lytic life cycle of KSHV.
PMCID: PMC187374  PMID: 12915560

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