The molecular basis of viral oncolysis: usurpation of the Ras signaling pathway by reovirus

EMBO J. 1998 Jun 15;17(12):3351-62. doi: 10.1093/emboj/17.12.3351.


NIH-3T3 cells, which are resistant to reovirus infection, became susceptible when transformed with activated Sos or Ras. Restriction of reovirus proliferation in untransformed NIH-3T3 cells was not at the level of viral gene transcription, but rather at the level of viral protein synthesis. An analysis of cell lysates revealed that a 65 kDa protein was phosphorylated in untransformed NIH-3T3 cells, but only after infection with reovirus. This protein was not phosphorylated in infected or uninfected transformed cells. The 65 kDa protein was determined to be the double-stranded RNA-activated protein kinase (PKR), whose phosphorylation leads to translation inhibition. Inhibition of PKR phosphorylation by 2-aminopurine, or deletion of the Pkr gene, led to drastic enhancement of reovirus protein synthesis in untransformed cells. The emerging picture is one in which early viral transcripts trigger PKR phosphorylation in untransformed cells, which in turn leads to inhibition of translation of viral genes; this phosphorylation event is blocked by an element(s) in the Ras pathway in the transformed cells, allowing viral protein synthesis to ensue. The usurpation of the Ras signaling pathway therefore constitutes the basis of reovirus oncolysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells / enzymology
  • 3T3 Cells / pathology
  • 3T3 Cells / virology
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Genes, ras / genetics
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Reoviridae Infections / metabolism*
  • Reoviridae* / growth & development
  • Reoviridae* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transformation, Genetic
  • eIF-2 Kinase / isolation & purification
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism*


  • RNA, Viral
  • eIF-2 Kinase