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Mol Immunol. 2012 Jun;51(2):245-53. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2012.03.024. Epub 2012 Apr 10.

Human cytomegalovirus US3 modulates destruction of MHC class I molecules.

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Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology, New York, NY 10029, USA.


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), a member of the Herpesviridae family, is proficient at establishing lifelong persistence within the host in part due to immune modulating genes that limit immune recognition. HCMV encodes at least five glycoproteins within its unique short (US) genomic region that interfere with MHC class I antigen presentation, thus hindering viral clearance by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). Specifically, US3 retains class I within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), while US2 and US11 induce class I heavy chain destruction. A cooperative effect on class I down-regulation during stable expression of HCMV US2 and US3 has been established. To address the impact of US3 on US11-mediated MHC class I down-regulation, the fate of class I molecules was examined in US3/US11-expressing cells and virus infection studies. Co-expression of US3 and US11 resulted in a decrease of surface expression of class I molecules. However, the class I molecules in US3/US11 cells were mostly retained in the ER with an attenuated rate of proteasome destruction. Analysis of class I levels from virus-infected cells using HCMV variants either expressing US3 or US11 revealed efficient surface class I down-regulation upon expression of both viral proteins. Cells infected with both US3 and US11 expressing viruses demonstrate enhanced retention of MHC class I complexes within the ER. Collectively, the data suggests a paradigm where HCMV-induced surface class I down-regulation occurs by diverse mechanisms dependent on the expression of specific US genes. These results validate the commitment of HCMV to limiting the surface expression of class I levels during infection.

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