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Cancer Res. 2008 Mar 15;68(6):1751-9. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-2766.

Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus viral IFN regulatory factor 3 stabilizes hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha to induce vascular endothelial growth factor expression.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Tumor Virology Division, New England Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Southborough, MA 01772, USA.


Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the etiologic agent associated with Kaposi's sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma, and multicentric Castleman's disease. Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is the master regulator of both developmental and pathologic angiogenesis, composed of an oxygen-sensitive alpha-subunit and a constitutively expressed beta-subunit. HIF-1 activity in tumors depends on the availability of the HIF-1 alpha subunit, the levels of which are increased under hypoxic conditions. Recent studies have shown that HIF-1 plays an important role in KSHV reactivation from latency and pathogenesis. Here, we report a novel mechanism by which KSHV activates HIF-1 activity. Specific interaction between KSHV viral IFN regulatory factor 3 (vIRF3) and the HIF-1 alpha subunit led to the HIF-1 alpha stabilization and transcriptional activation, which induced vascular endothelial growth factor expression and ultimately facilitated endothelial tube formation. Remarkably, the central domain of vIRF3, containing double alpha-helix motifs, was sufficient not only for binding to HIF-1 alpha but also for blocking its degradation in normoxic conditions. This indicates that KSHV has developed a unique mechanism to enhance HIF-1 alpha protein stability and transcriptional activity by incorporating a viral homologue of cellular IRF gene into its genome, which may contribute to viral pathogenesis.

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