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J Gen Virol. 2018 Feb 8. doi: 10.1099/jgv.0.001021. [Epub ahead of print]

SUMOylation of IE2p86 is required for efficient autorepression of the human cytomegalovirus major immediate-early promoter.

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1​Institute of Clinical and Molecular Virology, Friedrich Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Schlossgarten 4, 91054 Erlangen, Germany.
2​Institute of Virology, Ulm University Medical Center, Ulm, Germany.


The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) IE2p86 protein is pivotal for coordinated regulation of viral gene expression. Besides functioning as a promiscuous transactivator, IE2p86 is also known to negatively regulate its own transcription. This occurs via direct binding of IE2p86 to a 14-bp palindromic DNA element located between the TATA box and the transcription start site of the major immediate-early promoter (MIEP), which is referred to as the cis repression signal (CRS). However, the exact mechanism of IE2p86-based autorepression is still unclear. By testing a series of IE2p86 mutants in transient expression assays, we found that not only did a DNA binding-deficient mutant of IE2p86 fail to repress the MIEP, but SUMOylation-negative mutants also failed to repress it. This finding was further supported by infection studies with primary fibroblasts harbouring a MIEP-driven transgene as a reporter. Here, we observed that a recombinant HCMV expressing SUMOylation-negative IE2p86 was defective in transgene downregulation, in contrast to wild-type HCMV. Interestingly, however, a double-mutant virus in which both the SUMO acceptor sites and the SUMO interaction motif (SIM) of IE2p86 were inactivated regained the ability to silence the MIEP. This correlated with increased expression levels of the IE2 isoforms IE2p40 and IE2p60, suggesting that these late proteins may contribute to MIEP suppression, thus compensating for the loss of IE2p86 SUMOylation. In summary, our results show that autorepression of the MIEP is not only regulated by late isoforms of IE2, but also depends on posttranslational SUMO modification, revealing a novel mechanism to fine-tune the expression of this important viral gene region.


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