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J Virol. 2008 Nov;82(21):10591-9. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01242-08. Epub 2008 Aug 27.

Role of cdk9 in the optimization of expression of the genes regulated by ICP22 of herpes simplex virus 1.

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Marjorie B Kovler Viral Oncology Laboratories, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


ICP22 is a multifunctional herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) regulatory protein that regulates the accumulation of a subset of late (gamma(2)) proteins exemplified by U(L)38, U(L)41, and U(S)11. ICP22 binds the cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (cdk9) but not cdk7, and this complex in conjunction with viral protein kinases phosphorylates the carboxyl terminus of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) in vitro. The primary function of cdk9 and its partners, the cyclin T variants, is in the elongation of RNA transcripts, although functions related to the initiation and processing of transcripts have also been reported. We report two series of experiments designed to probe the role of cdk9 in infected cells. In the first, infected cells were treated with 5,6-dichloro-1-beta-d-ribofuranosylbenzimidazole (DRB), a specific inhibitor of cdk9. In cells treated with DRB, the major effect was in the accumulation of viral RNAs and proteins regulated by ICP22. The accumulation of alpha, beta, or gamma proteins not regulated by ICP22 was not affected by the drug. The results obtained with DRB were duplicated in cells transfected with small interfering RNA (siRNA) targeting cdk9 mRNAs. Interestingly, DRB and siRNA reduced the levels of ICP22 but not those of other alpha gene products. In addition, cdk9 and ICP22 appeared to colocalize with RNA Pol II in wild-type-virus-infected cells but not in DeltaU(L)13-infected cells. We conclude that cdk9 plays a critical role in the optimization of expression of genes regulated by ICP22 and that one function of cdk9 in HSV-1-infected cells may be to bring ICP22 into the RNA Pol II transcriptional complex.

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