Herpesvirus saimiri (HVS) encodes seven Sm-class small nuclear RNAs, called HSURs (for Herpesvirus saimiri U RNAs), that are abundantly expressed in HVS-transformed, latently infected marmoset T cells but are of unknown function. HSURs 1, 2, and 5 have highly conserved 5'-end sequences containing the AUUUA pentamer characteristic of AU-rich elements (AREs) that regulate the stability of many host mRNAs, including those encoding most proto-oncogenes and cytokines. To test whether the ARE-containing HSURs act to sequester host proteins that regulate the decay of these mRNAs, we demonstrate their in vivo interaction with the ARE-binding proteins hnRNP D and HuR in HVS-transformed T cells using a new cross-linking assay. Comprehensive Northern and microarray analyses revealed, however, that the levels of endogenous ARE-containing mRNAs are not altered in T cells latently infected with HVS mutants lacking HSURs 1 and 2. HSUR 1 binds the destabilizing ARE-binding protein tristetraprolin induced following activation of HVS-transformed T cells, but even in such stimulated cells, the levels of host ARE-containing mRNAs are not altered by deletion of HSURs 1 and 2. Instead, HSUR 1 itself is degraded by an ARE-dependent pathway in HVS-transformed T cells, suggesting that HVS may take advantage of the host ARE-mediated mRNA decay pathway to regulate HSUR expression. This is the first example of posttranscriptional regulation of the expression of an Sm small nuclear RNA.