Author(s): Iampietro M, Morissette G, Gravel A, Flamand L
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Abstract Human herpesvirus 6B (HHV-6B) is a ubiquitous pathogen causing lifelong infections in approximately 95\% of humans worldwide. To persist within its host, HHV-6B has developed several immune evasion mechanisms, such as latency, during which minimal proteins are expressed, and the ability to disturb innate and adaptive immune responses. The primary cellular targets of HHV-6B are CD4(+) T cells. Previous studies by Flamand et al. (L. Flamand, J. Gosselin, I. Stefanescu, D. Ablashi, and J. Menezes, Blood 85:1263-1271, 1995) reported on the capacity of HHV-6A as well as UV-irradiated HHV-6A to inhibit interleukin-2 (IL-2) synthesis in CD4(+) lymphocytes, suggesting that viral structural components could be responsible for this effect. In the present study, we identified the HHV-6B U54 tegument protein (U54) as being capable of inhibiting IL-2 expression. U54 binds the calcineurin (CaN) phosphatase enzyme, causing improper dephosphorylation and nuclear translocation of NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) proteins, resulting in suboptimal IL-2 gene transcription. The U54 GISIT motif (amino acids 293 to 297), analogous to the NFAT PXIXIT motif, contributed to the inhibition of NFAT activation. IMPORTANCE Human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and HHV-6B are associated with an increasing number of pathologies. These viruses have developed strategies to avoid the immune response allowing them to persist in the host. Several studies have illustrated mechanisms by which HHV-6A and HHV-6B are able to disrupt host defenses (reviewed in L. Dagna, J. C. Pritchett, and P. Lusso, Future Virol. 8:273-287, 2013, doi:10.2217/fvl.13.7). Previous work informed us that HHV-6A is able to suppress synthesis of interleukin-2 (IL-2), a key immune growth factor essential for adequate T lymphocyte proliferation and expansion. We obtained evidence that HHV-6B also inhibits IL-2 gene expression and identified the mechanisms by which it does so. Our work led us to the identification of U54, a virion-associated tegument protein, as being responsible for suppression of IL-2. Consequently, we have identified HHV-6B U54 protein as playing a role in immune evasion. These results further contribute to our understanding of HHV-6 interactions with its human host and the efforts deployed to ensure its long-term persistence. Copyright © 2014, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
This article was published in J Virol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Cellular Immunology