The control of RNA stability is a key determinant in cellular gene expression. The stability of any transcript is modulated through the activity of cis- or trans-acting regulatory factors as well as cellular quality control systems that ensure the integrity of a transcript. As a result, invading viral pathogens must be able to subvert cellular RNA decay pathways capable of destroying viral transcripts. Here we report that the Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) ORF57 protein binds to a unique KSHV polyadenylated nuclear RNA, called PAN RNA, and protects it from degradation by cellular factors. ORF57 increases PAN RNA levels and its effects are greatest on unstable alleles of PAN RNA. Kinetic analysis of transcription pulse assays shows that ORF57 protects PAN RNA from a rapid cellular RNA decay process, but ORF57 has little effect on transcription or PAN RNA localization based on chromatin immunoprecipitation and in situ hybridization experiments, respectively. Using a UV cross-linking technique, we further demonstrate that ORF57 binds PAN RNA directly in living cells and we show that binding correlates with function. In addition, we define an ORF57-responsive element (ORE) that is necessary for ORF57 binding to PAN RNA and sufficient to confer ORF57-response to a heterologous intronless β-globin mRNA, but not its spliced counterparts. We conclude that ORF57 binds to viral transcripts in the nucleus and protects them from a cellular RNA decay pathway. We propose that KSHV ORF57 protein functions to enhance the nuclear stability of intronless viral transcripts by protecting them from a cellular RNA quality control pathway.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology