Dynamic Interplay Between Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Latent Proteins in the Control of Oncogene-Induced Senescence
Leidal, Andrew Michael
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Acute oncogenic stress can activate autophagy and facilitate permanent arrest of the cell cycle through a failsafe mechanism known as oncogene-induced senescence (OIS). Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the etiologic agent of Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS) and has been reported to encode oncoproteins within its latency program that engage host autophagy and OIS pathways; however, the mechanisms by which KSHV oncoproteins promote KS tumorigenesis remain unclear. Here, I demonstrate that ectopic expression of the latent KSHV protein viral cyclin (v-cyclin) deregulates the cell cycle, induces DNA-damage responses (DDRs) and promotes OIS through an autophagy-dependent mechanism. During latency, v-cyclin is co-expressed from a single transcript with a viral homolog of FLICE-inhibitory protein (v-FLIP) that blocks autophagy by binding and inhibiting Atg3. Co-expression of v-FLIP has no effect on DDRs, but efficiently blocks v-cyclin-induced autophagy and senescence. Remarkably, suppression of v-FLIP function during KSHV latency, through specific inhibitory peptides, rescues host cell autophagy and induces senescence of infected cells. Together, these data reveal a coordinated viral gene-expression program that subverts autophagy, impairs senescence, and facilitates the proliferation of KSHV-infected cells.