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J Virol. 1998 Jun;72(6):4721-8.

Resistance of human cytomegalovirus to benzimidazole ribonucleosides maps to two open reading frames: UL89 and UL56.

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  • 1Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, School of Dentistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


2,5,6-Trichloro-1-beta-D-ribofuranosyl benzimidazole (TCRB) is a potent and selective inhibitor of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) replication. TCRB acts via a novel mechanism involving inhibition of viral DNA processing and packaging. Resistance to the 2-bromo analog (BDCRB) has been mapped to the UL89 open reading frame (ORF), and this gene product was proposed as the viral target of the benzimidazole nucleosides. In this study, we report the independent isolation of virus that is 20- to 30-fold resistant to TCRB (isolate C4) and the characterization of the virus. The six ORFs known to be essential for viral DNA cleavage and packaging (UL51, UL52, UL56, UL77, UL89, and UL104) were sequenced from wild-type HCMV, strain Towne, and from isolate C4. Mutations were identified in UL89 (D344E) and in UL56 (Q204R). The mutation in UL89 was identical to that previously reported for virus resistant to BDCRB, but the mutation in UL56 is novel. Marker transfer analysis demonstrated that each of these mutations individually caused approximately 10-fold resistance to the benzimidazoles and that the combination of both mutations caused approximately 30-fold resistance. The rate and extent of replication of the mutants was the same as for wild-type virus, but the viruses were less sensitive to inhibition of DNA cleavage by TCRB. Mapping of resistance to UL56 supports and extends recent work showing that UL56 codes for a packaging motif binding protein which also has specific nuclease activity (E. Bogner et al., J. Virol. 72:2259-2264, 1998). Resistance which maps to two different genes suggests that their putative proteins interact and/or that either or both have a benzimidazole ribonucleoside binding site. The results also suggest that the gene products of UL89 and UL56 may be antiviral drug targets.

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