Inhibition of human cytomegalovirus DNA polymerase by C-terminal peptides from the UL54 subunit

J Virol. 2003 Aug;77(15):8336-44. doi: 10.1128/jvi.77.15.8336-8344.2003.


In common with other herpesviruses, the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) DNA polymerase contains a catalytic subunit (Pol or UL54) and an accessory protein (UL44) that is thought to increase the processivity of the enzyme. The observation that antisense inhibition of UL44 synthesis in HCMV-infected cells strongly inhibits viral DNA replication, together with the structural similarity predicted for the herpesvirus processivity subunits, highlights the importance of the accessory protein for virus growth and raises the possibility that the UL54/UL44 interaction might be a valid target for antiviral drugs. To investigate this possibility, overlapping peptides spanning residues 1161 to 1242 of UL54 were synthesized and tested for inhibition of the interaction between purified UL54 and UL44 proteins. A peptide, LPRRLHLEPAFLPYSVKAHECC, corresponding to residues 1221 to 1242 at the very C terminus of UL54, disrupted both the physical interaction between the two proteins and specifically inhibited the stimulation of UL54 by UL44. A mutant peptide lacking the two carboxy-terminal cysteines was markedly less inhibitory, suggesting a role for these residues in the UL54/UL44 interaction. Circular dichroism spectroscopy indicated that the UL54 C-terminal peptide can adopt a partially alpha-helical structure. Taken together, these results indicate that the two subunits of HCMV DNA polymerase most likely interact in a way which is analogous to that of the two subunits of herpes simplex virus DNA polymerase, even though there is no sequence homology in the binding site, and suggest that the UL54 peptide, or derivatives thereof, could form the basis for developing a new class of anti-HCMV inhibitors that act by disrupting the UL54/UL44 interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Baculoviridae / genetics
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Circular Dichroism
  • Cytomegalovirus / enzymology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors*
  • Peptides / chemical synthesis
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Spodoptera
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • ICP36 protein, Cytomegalovirus
  • Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Peptides
  • UL54 protein, Human herpesvirus 5
  • Viral Proteins
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase