Author(s): Liu X, Li Q, Dowdell K, Fischer ER, Cohen JI
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Abstract Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are a family of serine-threonine protein kinases involved in many cellular processes, including cell proliferation, differentiation, inflammation, and cell death. Activation of several MAPKs, including extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2), p38, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), results in stimulation of activator protein 1 (AP-1), which promotes gene transcription. Previous studies have demonstrated that varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection activates ERK1/2, p38, and JNK to promote viral replication, but the underlying mechanism(s) is unclear. To identify viral proteins responsible for the activation of MAPK, we used a proteomic approach to screen viral proteins for AP-1 promoter activation by an AP-1-luciferase reporter assay. We found that VZV ORF12 protein, located in the tegument of virions, enhances AP-1 reporter activity. This effect of ORF12 protein was markedly inhibited by a MAPK/ERK kinase 1 and 2 (MEK1/2) inhibitor (U0126), partially blocked by a p38 inhibitor (SB202190), but not inhibited by a JNK inhibitor (SP600125). Expression of VZV ORF12 protein in cells resulted in phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and p38 but not JNK. Infection of cells with a VZV ORF12 deletion mutant resulted in reduced levels of phosphorylated ERK1/2 (p-ERK1/2) compared to infection with wild-type VZV. Furthermore, deletion of ORF12 rendered VZV-infected cells more susceptible to staurosporine-induced apoptosis. In conclusion, VZV ORF12 protein activates the AP-1 pathway by selectively triggering the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and p38. Cells infected with a VZV ORF12 deletion mutant have reduced levels of p-ERK1/2 and are more susceptible to apoptosis than cells infected with wild-type VZV.
This article was published in J Virol
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals