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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jul 21;106(29):12139-44. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0905828106. Epub 2009 Jul 7.

The virion-packaged endoribonuclease of herpes simplex virus 1 cleaves mRNA in polyribosomes.

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  • 1The Marjorie B. Kovler Viral Oncology Laboratories, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


The virion host shutoff protein product of the U(L)41 gene of herpes simplex virus 1 is an endoribonuclease that selectively degrades mRNAs during the first hours after infection. Specifically, in contrast to the events in uninfected cells or cells infected with a mutant lacking the RNase, in wild-type virus-infected cells mRNA of housekeeping genes exemplified by GAPDH is degraded rapidly, whereas mRNAs containing AU elements are cleaved and the 5' cleavage product of these RNAs persists for many hours. We report that in wild-type virus-infected cells there was a rapid increase in the number and size of processing bodies (P-bodies). These P-bodies were also preset in cycloheximide (CHX)-treated cells but not in either treated or untreated uninfected cells or cells infected with the RNase minus mutant. Additional studies revealed that polyribosomes extracted from cytoplasm of wild-type virus-infected cells treated with CHX and displayed in sucrose gradients contained ribosome-loaded, truncated AU-rich mRNAs lacking the 3' UTR and poly(A) tails. The results suggest that the virion RNase is bound to polyribosomes by virtue of the reported association with translation machinery and cleaves the RNAs 5' to the AU elements. In contrast to the slow degradation of the of the residual 5' domain, the 3' UTR of the AU-rich mRNA and the GAPDH mRNA are rapidly degraded in wild-type virus-infected cells.

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