Non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) play important roles in host-pathogen interactions; oncogenic viruses like Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) employ ncRNAs to establish a latent reservoir and persist for the life of the host. We previously reported that KSHV infection alters a novel class of RNA, circular RNAs (circRNAs). CircRNAs are alternative splicing isoforms and regulate gene expression, but their importance in infection is largely unknown. Here, we showed that a human circRNA, hsa_circ_0001400, is induced by various pathogenic viruses, namely KSHV, Epstein-Barr virus, and human cytomegalovirus. The induction of circRNAs including circ_0001400 by KSHV is co-transcriptionally regulated, likely at splicing. Consistently, screening for circ_0001400-interacting proteins identified a splicing factor, PNISR. Functional studies using infected primary endothelial cells revealed that circ_0001400 inhibits KSHV lytic transcription and virus production. Simultaneously, the circRNA promoted cell cycle, inhibited apoptosis, and induced immune genes. RNA-pull down assays identified transcripts interacting with circ_0001400, including TTI1, which is a component of the pro-growth mTOR complexes. We thus identified a circRNA that is pro-growth and anti-lytic replication. These results support a model in which KSHV induces circ_0001400 expression to maintain latency. Since circ_0001400 is induced by multiple viruses, this novel viral strategy may be widely employed by other viruses.
Keywords: HHV8; KSHV; circular RNAs; herpesvirus.