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Cell Cycle. 2011 Jul 1;10(13):2064-8. Epub 2011 Jul 1.

A herpesvirus kinase that masquerades as Akt: you don't have to look like Akt, to act like it.

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Department of Microbiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.


The cellular protein synthesis machinery is tightly regulated and capable of rapid reaction to a variety of physiological inputs critical in stress-response, cell cycle control, cancer biology, and virus infection. One important strategy for stimulating protein synthesis involves the ser/thr kinase Akt, which subsequently triggers inactivation of the cap-dependent translational repressor 4E-BP1 by an mTOR-containing protein complex (mTORC1). A recent paper demonstrated that herpes simplex virus utilizes a remarkable tactic to activate mTOR in infected cells. Instead of using the cellular Akt, the virus produces a ser / thr kinase called Us3 that doesn't look like Akt, but masquerades as Akt. By making the Akt-like protein unrecognizable, this disguise allows it to bypass the strict limits normally imposed on the real cellular Akt. Importantly, preventing the virus Akt-imposter from triggering mTORC1 inhibited viral growth, suggesting a new way to block herpes simplex virus. This study also raises the possibility that other Akt-impersonators may lurk hidden in our own genomes, possibly contributing to diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer.

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