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PLoS One. 2009;4(2):e4556. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004556. Epub 2009 Feb 23.

RTA promoter demethylation and histone acetylation regulation of murine gammaherpesvirus 68 reactivation.

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Center for Infection and Immunity and National Laboratory of Biomacromolecules, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.


Gammaherpesviruses have a common biological characteristic, latency and lytic replication. The balance between these two phases in murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV-68) is controlled by the replication and transcription activator (RTA) gene. In this report, we investigated the effect of DNA demethylation and histone acetylation on MHV-68 replication. We showed that distinctive methylation patterns were associated with MHV-68 at the RTA promoter during latency or lytic replication. Treatment of MHV-68 latently-infected S11E cells with a DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) inhibitor 5-azacytidine (5-AzaC), only weakly reactivated MHV-68, despite resulted in demethylation of the viral RTA promoter. In contrast, treatment with a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) strongly reactivated MHV-68 from latency, and this was associated with significant change in histone H3 and H4 acetylation levels at the RTA promoter. We further showed that HDAC3 was recruited to the RTA promoter and inhibited RTA transcription during viral latency. However, TSA treatment caused rapid removal of HDAC3 and also induced passive demethylation at the RTA promoter. In vivo, we found that the RTA promoter was hypomethylated during lytic infection in the lung and that methylation level increased with virus latent infection in the spleen. Collectively, our data showed that histone acetylation, but not DNA demethylation, is sufficient for effective reactivation of MHV-68 from latency in S11E cells.

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