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J Virol. 2010 Sep;84(17):8495-508. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00416-10. Epub 2010 May 26.

Phorbol ester-induced human cytomegalovirus major immediate-early (MIE) enhancer activation through PKC-delta, CREB, and NF-kappaB desilences MIE gene expression in quiescently infected human pluripotent NTera2 cells.

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University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.


The ways in which human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) major immediate-early (MIE) gene expression breaks silence from latency to initiate the viral replicative cycle are poorly understood. A delineation of the signaling cascades that desilence the HCMV MIE genes during viral quiescence in the human pluripotent N-Tera2 (NT2) cell model provides insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying HCMV reactivation. In this model, we show that phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) immediately activates the expression of HCMV MIE RNA and protein and greatly increases the MIE-positive (MIE(+)) NT2 cell population density; levels of Oct4 (pluripotent cell marker) and HCMV genome penetration are unchanged. Decreasing PKC-delta activity (pharmacological, dominant-negative, or RNA interference [RNAi] method) attenuates PMA-activated MIE gene expression. MIE gene activation coincides with PKC-delta Thr505 phosphorylation. Mutations in MIE enhancer binding sites for either CREB (cyclic AMP [cAMP] response element [CRE]) or NF-kappaB (kappaB) partially block PMA-activated MIE gene expression; the ETS binding site is negligibly involved, and kappaB does not confer MIE gene activation by vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). The PMA response is also partially attenuated by the RNAi-mediated depletion of the CREB or NF-kappaB subunit RelA or p50; it is not diminished by TORC2 knockdown or accompanied by TORC2 dephosphorylation. Mutations in both CRE and kappaB fully abolish PMA-activated MIE gene expression. Thus, PMA stimulates a PKC-delta-dependent, TORC2-independent signaling cascade that acts through cellular CREB and NF-kappaB, as well as their cognate binding sites in the MIE enhancer, to immediately desilence HCMV MIE genes. This signaling cascade is distinctly different from that elicited by VIP.

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