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J Gen Virol. 2004 Dec;85(Pt 12):3541-53.

Alteration of cellular RNA splicing and polyadenylation machineries during productive human cytomegalovirus infection.

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  • 1Center for Cancer and Immunology Research, Children's Research Institute, Children's National Medical Center, Room 5720, 111 Michigan Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20010, USA.


Alternative processing of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) UL37 pre-mRNA predominantly produces the unspliced UL37 exon 1 (UL37x1) RNA and multiple, lower abundance, alternatively spliced UL37 RNAs. The relative abundance of UL37x1 unspliced RNA is surprising because it requires the favoured use of a polyadenylation signal within UL37 intron 1, just upstream of the UL37 exon 2 (UL37x2) acceptor. Here, it was shown that a downstream element (DSE) in UL37x2 strongly enhanced processing at the UL37x1 polyadenylation site, but did not influence UL37x1-x2 splicing. There was a potential binding site (UCUU) for polypyrimidine tract-binding protein (PTB) at the UL37x1 polyadenylation/cleavage site and its mutation to UGGG reduced both polyadenylation and splicing of UL37x1-x2 minigene pre-mRNA, suggesting a role in both RNA processing events. To determine whether lytic HCMV infection altered the balance of RNA processing factors, which bind to UL37 pre-mRNA cis elements, these were investigated in permissively infected primary and immortalized human diploid fibroblasts (HFFs) and epithelial cells. Induction of polyadenylation factors in HCMV-infected, serum-starved (G(0)) HFFs was also investigated. Permissive HCMV infection consistently increased, albeit with different kinetics, the abundance of cleavage stimulation factor 64 (CstF-64) and PTB, and altered hypo-phosphorylated SF2 in different cell types. Moreover, the preponderance of UL37x1 RNA increased during infection and correlated with CstF-64 induction, whereas the complexity of the lower abundance UL37 spliced RNAs transiently increased following reduction of hypo-phosphorylated SF2. Collectively, multiple UL37 RNA polyadenylation cis elements and induced cellular factors in HCMV-infected cells strongly favoured the production of UL37x1 unspliced RNA.

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