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The challenge of viral snRNPs.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06536-0812, USA.


Some gammaherpesviruses encode nuclear noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) that assemble with host proteins. Their conservation and abundance implies that they serve important functions for the virus. This paper focuses on our studies of three classes of nuclear noncoding herpesvirus RNAs. (1) EBERs 1 and 2 are expressed by Epstein-Barr virus in latent infection of human B lymphocytes. Recent studies revealed three sites on EBER1 that associate with ribosomal protein L22. In addition, heterokaryon assays have definitively shown that both EBERs are confined to the nucleus, arguing that their contribution to viral latency is purely nuclear. (2) HSURs 1-7 are U RNAs encoded by Herpesvirus saimiri, which causes aggressive T-cell leukemias and lymphomas. Comparison of monkey T cells transformed with wild-type or mutant virus lacking HSURs 1 and 2 revealed significant changes in host mRNAs implicated in T-cell signaling. (3) PAN is a 1-kb polyadenylated RNA that accumulates in the nucleus of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus lytically infected cells. A novel element, the ENE, is essential for its high accumulation. Recent results indicate that the ENE functions to counteract poly(A)-dependent RNA degradation, which we propose contributes to nuclear surveillance of mRNA transcripts in mammalian cells. Continuing studies of these viral RNAs will provide insights into both cellular and viral gene expression.

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