Prevalent and differential herpesviral gene regulation mediated by 3'-untranslated regions
MetadataShow full item record
Herpesviral infections are currently incurable and are associated with severe human diseases, such as cancer. Kaposi’s Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus (KSHV), like all herpesviruses, undergoes a long-term, latent infection where few viral products are made as a mechanism to evade the host immune system. Recently, the KSHV latent genome was shown to have bivalent histone marks thought to keep the virus poised for replication. However, it is unclear how the virus prevents spurious leaky transcription from this primed state. The 3' untranslated region (3'-UTR) of transcripts is a common site of gene expression regulation, however less than half of the KSHV 3'-UTRs have been mapped and few studies have interrogated their role during infection. The work presented here is the first large-scale map and analysis of the KSHV 3'-UTRs. Four methods were used to identify the 3'-UTRs expressed by the ~85 KSHV genes, including prediction algorithms, 3'-RACE, DNA tiling array, and next generation deep sequencing analysis. The role of each KSHV 3'-UTR in gene expression was then examined using luciferase reporter assays and showed a surprising prevalence of negative regulation conveyed during latent infection. Sequential deletions across numerous 3'-UTRs indicated RNA structure is likely involved in this regulation. In addition, several KSHV 3'-UTRs conveyed an increase in translation during lytic infection through enhanced recognition by the cap-dependent translation initiation machinery activated via the MNK1 kinase. A second mechanism of KSHV gene regulation was identified through motifs encoded in the K7 3'-UTR. This work indicated that a previously characterized RNA element and a novel putative hairpin are both partially responsible for negative regulation conveyed by the K7 3'-UTR. We hypothesize that these structural motifs control expression of the K7 transcript by altering its sub-cellular location and/or via RNA stability. This work represents a broad 3'-UTR study that mapped the KSHV 3'-UTRs and is the first large-scale functional analysis of 3'-UTRs from a large genome virus. We have implicated post-transcriptional mechanisms, along with known transcriptional regulation, in viral evasion of the immune response during latency and the escape of viral-mediated host shutoff. These results identify new potential targets for therapeutic intervention of KSHV-associated disease.