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J Virol. 2000 Jun;74(11):5300-9.

Downregulation of major histocompatibility complex class I molecules by Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus K3 and K5 proteins.

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Department of Microbiology, New England Regional Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Southborough, Massachusetts 01772, USA.


The T-cell-mediated immune response plays a central role in the defense against intracellular pathogens. To avoid this immune response, viruses have evolved elaborate mechanisms that target and modulate many different aspects of the host's immune system. A target common to many of these viruses is the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules. Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) encodes K3 and K5 zinc finger membrane proteins which remove MHC class I molecules from the cell surface. K3 and K5 exhibit 40% amino acid identity to each other and localize primarily near the plasma membrane. While K3 and K5 dramatically downregulated class I molecules, they displayed different specificities in downregulation of HLA allotypes. K5 significantly downregulated HLA-A and -B and downregulated HLA-C only weakly, but not HLA-E, whereas K3 downregulated all four HLA allotypes. This selective downregulation of HLA allotypes by K5 was partly due to differences in amino acid sequences in their transmembrane regions. Biochemical analyses demonstrated that while K3 and K5 did not affect expression and intracellular transport of class I molecules, their expression induced rapid endocytosis of the molecules. These results demonstrate that KSHV has evolved a novel immune evasion mechanism by harboring similar but distinct genes, K3 and K5, which target MHC class I molecules in different ways.

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