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mBio. 2019 Feb 19;10(1). pii: e02892-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02892-18.

Ephrin Receptor A4 is a New Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Virus Entry Receptor.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Department of Structural Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA


Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a human gammaherpesvirus associated with the development of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). KSHV target cells include endothelial cells, B cells, monocytes, epithelial cells, dendritic cells, macrophages, and fibroblasts. KSHV entry into target cells is a complex multistep process and is initiated by the binding and interaction of viral envelope glycoproteins with the cellular receptors. In the current studies, we have found that EphA4 promotes KSHV glycoprotein H/glycoprotein L (gH/gL)-mediated fusion and infection better than does ephrin A2 (EphA2) in HEK293T cells, indicating that EphA4 is a new KSHV entry receptor. To confirm that epithelial cells express EphA2 and EphA4, we analyzed the expression of EphA2 and EphA4 in epithelial cells, endothelial cells, B cells, monocytes, fibroblasts using RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data analysis of existing data sets. We found that these cell types broadly express both EphA2 and EphA4, with the exception of monocytes and B cells. To confirm EphA4 is important for KSHV fusion and infection, we generated EphA2 and EphA4 single- and double-knockout cells. We found that both EphA2 and EphA4 play a role in KSHV fusion and infection, since EphA2-EphA4 double-knockout cells had the greatest decrease in fusion activity and infection compared to single-knockout cells. Fusion and infection of KSHV were rescued in the EphA2-EphA4 double-knockout cells upon overexpression of EphA2 and/or EphA4. EphA2 binds to both Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and KSHV gH/gL; however, EphA4 binds only to KSHV gH/gL. Taken together, our results identify EphA4 as a new entry receptor for KSHV.IMPORTANCE The overall entry mechanism for herpesviruses is not completely known, including those for the human gammaherpesviruses Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). To fully understand the herpesvirus entry process, functional receptors need to be identified. In the current study, we found that EphA4 can also function for a KSHV entry receptor along with EphA2. Interestingly, we found that EphA4 does not function as an entry receptor for EBV, whereas EphA2 does. The discovery of EphA4 as a KSHV entry receptor has important implications for KSHV pathogenesis in humans, may prove useful in understanding the unique pathogenesis of KSHV infection in humans, and may uncover new potential targets that can be used for the development of novel interventional strategies.


Eph receptors; EphA4; Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus; gH/gL; viral entry

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