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J Gen Virol. 2013 Jun;94(Pt 6):1373-84. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.051078-0. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) pathway-mediated enhancement of human cytomegalovirus replication correlates with a recruitment of SUMO-1/3 proteins to viral replication compartments.

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Institute for Clinical and Molecular Virology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Schlossgarten 4, 91054 Erlangen, Germany.


Recent studies have suggested that the small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) conjugation pathway may play an important role in intrinsic antiviral resistance and thus for repression of herpesviral infections. In particular, it was shown that the herpes simplex virus type-1 regulatory protein ICP0 acts as a SUMO-targeted ubiquitin ligase (STUbL), inducing the widespread degradation of SUMO-conjugated proteins during infection. As the IE1 protein of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is known to mediate a de-SUMOylation of PML, we investigated whether HCMV uses a similar mechanism to counteract intrinsic antiviral resistance. We generated primary human fibroblasts stably expressing FLAG-SUMO-1 or FLAG-SUMO-3 and analysed the SUMOylation pattern after HCMV infection or isolated IE1 expression. However, Western blot experiments did not reveal a global loss of SUMO conjugates, either in HCMV-infected or in IE1-expressing cells, arguing against a function of IE1 as an STUbL. Interestingly, we observed that FLAG-SUMO-1 and FLAG-SUMO-3, subsequent to IE1-mediated promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML) de-SUMOylation and the consequent disruption of PML nuclear bodies, were recruited into viral replication compartments. This raised the question of whether FLAG-SUMO-1/3 might promote HCMV replication. Intriguingly, overexpression of FLAG-SUMO-1/3 enhanced accumulation of viral DNA, which correlated with an increase in viral replication and in virus particle release. Together, these data indicate that HCMV, in contrast to other herpesviruses, has evolved subtle mechanisms enabling it to utilize the SUMO conjugation pathway for its own benefit, resulting in an overall positive effect of SUMO conjugation for HCMV replication.

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