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J Virol. 2005 Sep;79(18):11914-24.

The human herpesvirus 6 G protein-coupled receptor homolog U51 positively regulates virus replication and enhances cell-cell fusion in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) is a ubiquitous T-lymphotropic betaherpesvirus that encodes two G protein-coupled receptor homologs, U12 and U51. HHV-6A U51 has been reported to bind to CC chemokines including RANTES, but the biological function of U51 remains uncertain. In this report, we stably expressed short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) specific for U51 in human T cells and then infected these cells with HHV-6. Viral DNA replication was reduced 50-fold by the U51 siRNA, and virally induced cytopathic effects were also inhibited. In contrast, viral replication and syncytium formation were unaltered in cells that expressed a scrambled derivative of the siRNA or an irrelevant siRNA and were restored to normal when a human codon-optimized derivative of U51 was introduced into cells containing the U51 siRNA. To examine the mechanism whereby U51 might contribute to viral replication, we explored the signaling characteristics of U51. None of the chemokines and opioids tested was able to induce G protein coupling by U51, and no evidence for opioid ligand binding by U51 was obtained. The effect of U51 on cell-cell fusion was also evaluated; these studies showed that U51 enhanced cell fusion mediated by the G protein of vesicular stomatitis virus. However, a U51-specific antiserum had no virus-neutralizing activity, suggesting that U51 may not be involved in the initial interaction between the virus particle and host cell. Overall, these studies suggest that HHV-6 U51 is a positive regulator of virus replication in vitro, perhaps because it may promote membrane fusion and facilitates cell-cell spread of this highly cell-associated virus.

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