Background: Human cytomegalovirus UL114 encodes a uracil-DNA glycosylase homolog that is highly conserved in all characterized herpesviruses that infect mammals. Previous studies demonstrated that the deletion of this nonessential gene delays significantly the onset of viral DNA synthesis and results in a prolonged replication cycle. The gene product, pUL114, also appears to be important in late phase DNA synthesis presumably by introducing single stranded breaks.
Results: A series of experiments was performed to formally assign the observed phenotype to pUL114 and to characterize the function of the protein in viral replication. A cell line expressing pUL114 complemented the observed phenotype of a UL114 deletion virus in trans, confirming that the observed defects were the result of a deficiency in this gene product. Stocks of recombinant viruses without elevated levels of uracil were produced in the complementing cells; however they retained the phenotype of poor growth in normal fibroblasts suggesting that poor replication was unrelated to uracil content of input genomes. Recombinant viruses expressing epitope tagged versions of this gene demonstrated that pUL114 was expressed at early times and that it localized to viral replication compartments. This protein also coprecipitated with the DNA polymerase processivity factor, ppUL44 suggesting that these proteins associate in infected cells. This apparent interaction did not appear to require other viral proteins since ppUL44 could recruit pUL114 to the nucleus in uninfected cells. An analysis of DNA replication kinetics revealed that the initial rate of DNA synthesis and the accumulation of progeny viral genomes were significantly reduced compared to the parent virus.
Conclusion: These data suggest that pUL114 associates with ppUL44 and that it functions as part of the viral DNA replication complex to increase the efficiency of both early and late phase viral DNA synthesis.