Human cytomegalovirus regulates surface expression of the viral protein UL18 by means of two motifs present in the cytoplasmic tail

Massimo Maffei, Fabio Ghiotto, Marzia Occhino, Maria Bono, Amleto De Santanna, Lorenzo Battini, G. Luca Gusella, Franco Fais, Silvia Bruno, Ermanno Ciccone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

UL18 is a trans-membrane viral protein expressed on human cytomegalovirus (HCMV)-infected cells, and its surface expression determines the interaction of infected cells with lymphocytes expressing the CD85j (LIR-1/ILT2) receptor. We previously showed that the UL18-CD85j interaction elicits activation of T lymphocytes. However, in in vitro cell models UL18 displays mostly undetectable surface expression. Thus, we asked how surface expression of UL18 is regulated. Domain-swapping experiments and construction of specific mutants demonstrated that two motifs on its cytoplasmic tail, homologous to YXXΦ and KKXX consensus sequences, respectively, are responsible for impairing UL18 surface expression. However, the presence of the whole HCMV genome, granted by HCMV infection of human fibroblasts, restored surface expression of either UL18 or chimeric proteins carrying the UL18 cytoplasmic tail, starting from the third day after infection. It is of note that the two motifs responsible for cytoplasmic retention are identical in all 17 HCMV strains examined. We disclosed a control mechanism used by the HCMV to regulate the availability of UL18 on the infected-cell surface to allow interaction with its ligand on T and NK cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-979
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Immunology
Volume180
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 15 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

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