ORF73-null murine gammaherpesvirus 68 reveals roles for mLANA and p53 in virus replication

J Virol. 2007 Nov;81(21):11957-71. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00111-07. Epub 2007 Aug 15.


Gammaherpesviruses establish lifelong, latent infections in host lymphocytes, during which a limited subset of viral gene products facilitates maintenance of the viral episome. Among the gamma-2-herpesvirus (rhadinovirus) subfamily, this includes expression of the conserved ORF73-encoded LANA proteins. We previously demonstrated by loss-of-function mutagenesis that the murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV68) ORF73 gene product, mLANA, is required for the establishment of latency following intranasal inoculation of mice (N. J. Moorman, D. O. Willer, and S. H. Speck, J. Virol. 77:10295-10303, 2003). mLANA-deficient viruses also exhibited a defect in acute virus replication in the lungs of infected mice. The latter observation led us to examine the role of mLANA in productive viral replication. We assessed the capacity of mLANA-deficient virus (73.Stop) to replicate in cell culture at low multiplicities of infection (MOIs) and found that 73.Stop growth was impaired in murine fibroblasts but not in Vero cells. A recombinant virus expressing an mLANA-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion revealed that mLANA is expressed throughout the virus replication cycle. In addition, 73.Stop infection of murine fibroblasts at high MOIs was substantially more cytotoxic than infection with a genetically repaired marker rescue virus (73.MR), a phenotype that correlated with enhanced kinetics of viral gene expression and increased activation of p53. Notably, augmented cell death, viral gene expression, and p53 induction were independent of viral DNA replication. Expression of a mLANA-GFP fusion protein in fibroblasts correlated with both reduced p53 stabilization and reduced cell death following treatment with p53-inducing agonists. In agreement, accentuated cell death associated with 73.Stop infection was reduced in p53-deficient murine embryonic fibroblasts. Additionally, replication of 73.Stop in p53-deficient cells was restored to levels comparable to those of 73.MR. More remarkably, the absence of p53 led to an overall delay in replication for both 73.Stop and 73.MR viruses, which correlated with delayed viral gene expression, indicating a role for p53 in MHV68 replication. Consistent with these findings, the expression of replication-promoting viral genes was positively influenced by p53 overexpression or treatment with the p53 agonist etoposide. Overall, these data demonstrate the importance of mLANA in MHV68 replication and suggest that LANA proteins limit the induction of cellular stress responses to regulate the viral gene expression cascade and limit host cell injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gammaherpesvirinae
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • MART-1 Antigen
  • Mice
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Neoplasm Proteins / physiology*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • Vero Cells
  • Viral Proteins / genetics*
  • Viral Proteins / physiology
  • Virus Replication*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • MART-1 Antigen
  • MLANA protein, human
  • Mlana protein, mouse
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Viral Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins