Cytomegalovirus cyclin-dependent kinase ortholog vCDK/pUL97 undergoes regulatory interaction with human cyclin H and CDK7 to codetermine viral replication efficiency

Virus Res. 2023 Oct 2:335:199200. doi: 10.1016/j.virusres.2023.199200. Epub 2023 Aug 19.


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is shaped by a tightly regulated interplay between viral and cellular proteins. Distinct kinase activities, such as the viral cyclin-dependent kinase ortholog (vCDK) pUL97 and cellular CDK7 are both crucial for efficient viral replication. Previously, we reported that both kinases, vCDK/pUL97 and CDK7, interact with cyclin H, thereby achieving an enhanced level of kinase activity and overall functionality in viral replication. Here we provide a variety of novel results, as generated on a methodologically extended basis, and present a concept for the codetermination of viral replication efficiency through these kinase activities: (i) cyclin H expression, in various human cell types, is substantially upregulated by strains of HCMV including the clinically relevant HCMV Merlin; (ii) vCDK/pUL97 interacts with human cyclin H in both HCMV-infected and plasmid-transfected cell systems; (iii) a doxycycline-inducible shRNA-dependent knock-down (KD) of cyclin H significantly reduces pUL97 activity (qSox in vitro kinase assay); (iv) accordingly, pUL97 in vitro kinase activity is seen significantly increased upon addition of recombinant cyclin H; (v) as a point of specific importance, human CDK7 activity shows an increase by vCDK/pUL97-mediated trans-stimulation (whereas pUL97 is not stimulated by CDK7); (vi) phosphosite-specific antibodies indicate an upregulated CDK7 phosphorylation upon HCMV infection, as mediated through a pUL97-specific modulatory effect (i.e. shown by pUL97 inhibitor treatment or pUL97-deficient viral mutant); (vii) finally, an efficient KD of cyclin H in primary fibroblasts generally results in an impaired HCMV replication efficiency as measured on protein and genomic levels. These results show evidence for the codetermination of viral replication by vCDK/pUL97, cyclin H and CDK7, thus supporting the specific importance of cyclin H as a central regulatory factor, and suggesting novel targeting options for antiviral drugs.

Keywords: Codetermination of viral replication; Cyclin H knock-down; Functional importance of cyclin H; Human cytomegalovirus; Modulation of vCDK/pUL97 activity in vitro; Options for antiviral drug targeting; Viral cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) ortholog; pUL97-mediated CDK7 trans-stimulation; vCDK/pUL97–cyclin binding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents
  • Cyclin H
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases* / genetics
  • Cytomegalovirus* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Phosphorylation


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Cyclin H
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases
  • CCNH protein, human
  • CDK7 protein, human