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J Virol. 2014 Feb;88(4):2183-94. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02106-13. Epub 2013 Dec 11.

Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus viral interferon regulatory factor 4 (vIRF4) targets expression of cellular IRF4 and the Myc gene to facilitate lytic replication.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA.


Besides an essential transcriptional factor for B cell development and function, cellular interferon regulatory factor 4 (c-IRF4) directly regulates expression of the c-Myc gene, which is not only associated with various B cell lymphomas but also required for herpesvirus latency and pathogenesis. Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), the etiological agent of Kaposi's sarcoma and primary effusion lymphoma, has developed a unique mechanism to deregulate host antiviral innate immunity and growth control by incorporating four viral homologs (vIRF1 to -4) of cellular IRFs into its genome. Previous studies have shown that several KSHV latent proteins, including vIRF3, vFLIP, and LANA, target the expression, function, and stability of c-Myc to establish and maintain viral latency. Here we report that the KSHV vIRF4 lytic protein robustly suppresses expression of c-IRF4 and c-Myc, reshaping host gene expression profiles to facilitate viral lytic replication. Genomewide gene expression analysis revealed that KSHV vIRF4 grossly affects host gene expression by upregulating and downregulating 118 genes and 166 genes, respectively, by at least 2-fold. Remarkably, vIRF4 suppressed c-Myc expression by 11-fold, which was directed primarily by the deregulation of c-IRF4 expression. Real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), single-molecule in situ hybridization, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays showed that vIRF4 not only reduces c-IRF4 expression but also competes with c-IRF4 for binding to the specific promoter region of the c-Myc gene, resulting in drastic suppression of c-Myc expression. Consequently, the loss of vIRF4 function in the suppression of c-IRF4 and c-Myc expression ultimately led to a reduction of KSHV lytic replication capacity. These results indicate that the KSHV vIRF4 lytic protein comprehensively targets the expression and function of c-IRF4 to downregulate c-Myc expression, generating a favorable environment for viral lytic replication. Finally, this study further reinforces the important role of the c-Myc gene in KSHV lytic replication and latency.

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