In herpesvirus replicating cells, host cell gene transcription is frequently down-regulated because important transcriptional apparatuses are appropriated by viral transcription factors. Here, we show a small peptide derived from the Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus transactivator (K-Rta) sequence, which attenuates cellular MYC expression, reduces cell proliferation, and selectively kills cancer cell lines in both tissue culture and a xenograft tumor mouse model. Mechanistically, the peptide functions as a decoy to block the recruitment of coactivator complexes consisting of Nuclear receptor coactivator 2 (NCOA2), p300, and SWI/SNF proteins to the MYC promoter in primary effusion lymphoma cells. Thiol(SH)-linked alkylation for the metabolic sequencing of RNA (SLAM seq) with target-transcriptional analyses further confirm that the viral peptide directly attenuates MYC and MYC-target gene expression. This study thus provides a unique tool to control MYC activation, which may be used as a therapeutic payload to treat MYC-dependent diseases such as cancers and autoimmune diseases.
© 2021. The Author(s).