Modulation of Cellular CpG DNA Methylation by Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus

J Virol. 2018 Jul 31;92(16):e00008-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00008-18. Print 2018 Aug 15.


Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV, HHV-8) is a gammaherpesvirus associated with several human malignancies. DNA methylation at CpG dinucleotides is an epigenetic mark dysregulated in many cancer types and in KSHV-infected cells. Several previous studies have analyzed in detail the CpG methylation of the KSHV episomal genomes, but little is known about the impact of KSHV on the human genome. Our knowledge of cellular CpG methylation in the context of KSHV infection is currently limited to four hypermethylated human gene promoters. Therefore, we undertook a comprehensive CpG methylation analysis of the human methylome in KSHV-infected cells and KSHV-associated primary effusion lymphoma (PEL). We performed Infinium HumanMethylation450K and MethylationEpic BeadChip arrays and identified panels of hyper- and hypomethylated cellular promoters in KSHV-infected cells. We combined our genome-wide methylation analysis with high-throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to add functional outcomes to the virally induced methylation changes. We were able to correlate many downregulated genes with promoter hypermethylation and upregulated genes with hypomethylation. In addition, we show that treating the cells with a demethylating agent leads to reexpression of these downregulated genes, indicating that, indeed, DNA methylation plays a role in the repression of these human genes. Comparison between de novo infection and PEL suggests that the virus induces initial hypermethylation followed by a slow increase in genome-wide hypomethylation. This study extends our understanding of the relationship between epigenetic changes induced by KSHV infection and tumorigenesis.IMPORTANCE In cancer cells, certain promoters become aberrantly methylated, contributing to the phenotype of the tumor. KSHV infection seems to modify cellular CpG methylation, but only a few methylated promoters have been identified in KSHV-infected cells. Here, we investigated the CpG methylation of the human genome in KSHV-associated primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) and KSHV-infected cells. We have identified many hyper- and hypomethylated gene promoters and correlated their methylation with cellular gene expression. These differentially methylated cellular promoters can distinguish KSHV-positive cells from uninfected cells and may serve as the foundation for the use of these differentially methylated regions as potential biomarkers for KSHV-associated malignancies. Drugs that reverse these cancerous methylation patterns have the potential to inhibit tumor growth. Here, we show that treating PEL cells with a demethylating drug (5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine) led to inhibition of cell growth, raising the possibility of testing this drug for the treatment of PEL.

Keywords: DNA methylation; Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus; human herpesviruses; primary effusion lymphoma; transcriptional repression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA-Cytosine Methylases / metabolism*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Herpesvirus 8, Human / physiology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, Primary Effusion / pathology*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • DNA modification methylase SssI
  • DNA-Cytosine Methylases