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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Apr 14;95(8):4338-43.

Segregation of viral plasmids depends on tethering to chromosomes and is regulated by phosphorylation.

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Molecular and Cell Biology Department, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Eukaryotic viruses can maintain latency in dividing cells as extrachromosomal nuclear plasmids. Segregation and nuclear retention of DNA is, therefore, a key issue in retaining copy number. The E2 enhancer protein of the papillomaviruses is required for viral DNA replication and transcription. Viral mutants that prevent phosphorylation of the bovine papillomavirus type 1 (BPV) E2 protein are transformation-defective, despite normal viral gene expression and replication function. Cell colonies harboring such mutants show sectoring of viral DNA and are unable to maintain the episome. We find that transforming viral DNA attaches to mitotic chromosomes, in contrast to the mutant genome encoding the E2 phosphorylation mutant. Second-site suppressor mutations were uncovered in both E1 and E2 genes that allow for transformation, maintenance, and chromosomal attachment. E2 protein was also found to colocalize to mitotic chromosomes, whereas the mutant did not, suggesting a direct role for E2 in viral attachment to chromosomes. Such viral hitch-hiking onto cellular chromosomes is likely to provide a general mechanism for maintaining nuclear plasmids.

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