Latent KSHV Infected Endothelial Cells Are Glutamine Addicted and Require Glutaminolysis for Survival

PLoS Pathog. 2015 Jul 21;11(7):e1005052. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005052. eCollection 2015 Jul.


Kaposi's Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus (KSHV) is the etiologic agent of Kaposi's Sarcoma (KS). KSHV establishes a predominantly latent infection in the main KS tumor cell type, the spindle cell, which is of endothelial cell origin. KSHV requires the induction of multiple metabolic pathways, including glycolysis and fatty acid synthesis, for the survival of latently infected endothelial cells. Here we demonstrate that latent KSHV infection leads to increased levels of intracellular glutamine and enhanced glutamine uptake. Depletion of glutamine from the culture media leads to a significant increase in apoptotic cell death in latently infected endothelial cells, but not in their mock-infected counterparts. In cancer cells, glutamine is often required for glutaminolysis to provide intermediates for the tri-carboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and support for the production of biosynthetic and bioenergetic precursors. In the absence of glutamine, the TCA cycle intermediates alpha-ketoglutarate (αKG) and pyruvate prevent the death of latently infected cells. Targeted drug inhibition of glutaminolysis also induces increased cell death in latently infected cells. KSHV infection of endothelial cells induces protein expression of the glutamine transporter, SLC1A5. Chemical inhibition of SLC1A5, or knockdown by siRNA, leads to similar cell death rates as glutamine deprivation and, similarly, can be rescued by αKG. KSHV also induces expression of the heterodimeric transcription factors c-Myc-Max and related heterodimer MondoA-Mlx. Knockdown of MondoA inhibits expression of both Mlx and SLC1A5 and induces a significant increase in cell death of only cells latently infected with KSHV, again, fully rescued by the supplementation of αKG. Therefore, during latent infection of endothelial cells, KSHV activates and requires the Myc/MondoA-network to upregulate the glutamine transporter, SLC1A5, leading to increased glutamine uptake for glutaminolysis. These findings expand our understanding of the required metabolic pathways that are activated during latent KSHV infection of endothelial cells, and demonstrate a novel role for the extended Myc-regulatory network, specifically MondoA, during latent KSHV infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Endothelial Cells / virology*
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Herpesvirus 8, Human / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / physiology
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / metabolism*
  • Virus Latency / physiology


  • Glutamine