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J Virol. 2005 Dec;79(24):15477-93.

Human cytomegalovirus infection induces specific hyperphosphorylation of the carboxyl-terminal domain of the large subunit of RNA polymerase II that is associated with changes in the abundance, activity, and localization of cdk9 and cdk7.

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  • 1Cellular and Molecular Medicine East, Room 2059, Mail Code 0712, 9500 Gilman Drive, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0712, USA.


Human cytomegalovirus infection in the presence of the cyclin-dependent kinase (cdk) inhibitor roscovitine leads to changes in differential splicing and the polyadenylation of immediate early IE1/IE2 and UL37 transcripts (V. Sanchez, A. K. McElroy, J. Yen, S. Tamrakar, C. L. Clark, R. A. Schwartz, and D. H. Spector, J. Virol. 78:11219-11232, 2004). To determine if this was associated with specific phosphorylation of the C-terminal domain (CTD) of the RNA polymerase II (RNAP II) large subunit by cdk7/cyclin H and cdk9/cyclin T1, we examined the expression and localization of these kinases and the various phosphorylated forms of RNAP II. Infection resulted in increased RNAP II CTD phosphorylated on serines 2 and 5 and increased levels of activity of cdk7 and cdk9. At early times, cdk9 localizes with input viral DNA, and aggregates of cdk9 and cdk7 and a subset of Ser2-phosphorylated RNAP II colocalize with IE1/IE2 proteins adjacent to promyelocytic leukemia protein oncogenic domains. Later, cdk9 and Ser2-phosphorylated RNAP II form a nuclear punctate pattern; cdk7 resides in replication centers, and Ser5-phosphorylated RNAP II clusters at the peripheries of replication centers. Roscovitine treatment leads to decreased levels of hyperphosphorylated RNAP II (RNAP IIo) in infected cells and of hypophosphorylated RNAP II in mock-infected and infected cells. The RNAP IIo decrease does not occur if roscovitine is added 8 h postinfection, as was previously observed for processing of IE transcripts. These results suggest that accurate IE gene expression requires specific phosphorylation of the RNAP II CTD early in infection.

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