Nuclear-cytoplasmic compartmentalization of the herpes simplex virus 1 infected cell transcriptome is co-ordinated by the viral endoribonuclease vhs and cofactors to facilitate the translation of late proteins

by Kathleen Pheasant, Carla Sofia Möller-Levet, Juliet Jones, Daniel Depledge, Judith Breuer, Gillian Elliott

HSV1 encodes an endoribonuclease termed virion host shutoff (vhs) that is produced late in infection and packaged into virions. Paradoxically, vhs is active against not only host but also virus transcripts, and is involved in host shutoff and the temporal expression of the virus transcriptome. Two other virus proteins—VP22 and VP16 –are proposed to regulate vhs to prevent uncontrolled and lethal mRNA degradation but their mechanism of action is unknown. We have performed dual transcriptomic analysis and single-cell mRNA FISH of human fibroblasts, a cell type where in the absence of VP22, HSV1 infection results in extreme translational shutoff. In Wt infection, host mRNAs exhibited a wide range of susceptibility to vhs ranging from resistance to 1000-fold reduction, a variation that was independent of their relative abundance or transcription rate. However, vhs endoribonuclease activity was not found to be overactive against any of the cell transcriptome in Δ22-infected cells but rather was delayed, while its activity against the virus transcriptome and in particular late mRNA was minimally enhanced. Intriguingly, immediate-early and early transcripts exhibited vhs-dependent nuclear retention later in Wt infection but late transcripts were cytoplasmic. However, in the absence of VP22, not only early but also late transcripts were retained in the nucleus by a vhs-dependent mechanism, a characteristic that extended to cellular transcripts that were not efficiently degraded by vhs. Moreover, the ability of VP22 to bind VP16 enhanced but was not fundamental to the rescue of vhs-induced nuclear retention of late transcripts. Hence, translational shutoff in HSV1 infection is primarily a result of vhs-induced nuclear retention and not degradation of infected cell mRNA. We have therefore revealed a new mechanism whereby vhs and its co-factors including VP22 elicit a temporal and spatial regulation of the infected cell transcriptome, thus co-ordinating efficient late protein production.

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