Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Expressing GFP-Tagged Virion Host Shutoff (vhs) Protein Uncouples the Activities of RNA Degradation and Differential Nuclear Retention of the Virus Transcriptome
Wise, E.L.; Samolej, J.; Elliott, G.
Journal of Virology 96(14): E0192621
Virion host shutoff (vhs) protein is an endoribonuclease encoded by herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1). vhs causes several changes to the infected cell environment that favor the translation of late (L) virus proteins: cellular mRNAs are degraded, immediate early (IE) and early (E) viral transcripts are sequestered in the nucleus with polyA binding protein (PABPC1), and dsRNA is degraded to help dampen the PKR-dependent stress response. To further our understanding of the cell biology of vhs, we constructed a virus expressing vhs tagged at its C terminus with GFP. When first expressed, vhs-GFP localized to juxtanuclear clusters, and later it colocalized and interacted with its binding partner VP16, and was packaged into virions. Despite vhs-GFP maintaining activity when expressed in isolation, it failed to degrade mRNA or relocalise PABPC1 during infection, while viral transcript levels were similar to those seen for a vhs knockout virus. PKR phosphorylation was also enhanced in vhs-GFP infected cells, which is in line with a failure to degrade dsRNA. Nonetheless, mRNA FISH revealed that as in Wt but not Dvhs infection, IE and E, but not L transcripts were retained in the nucleus of vhs-GFP infected cells at late times. These results revealed that the vhs-induced nuclear retention of IE and E transcripts was dependent on vhs expression but not on its endoribonuclease activity, uncoupling these two functions of vhs. IMPORTANCE Like many viruses, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1) expresses an endoribonuclease, the virion host shutoff (vhs) protein, which regulates the RNA environment of the infected cell and facilitates the classical cascade of virus protein translation. It does this by causing the degradation of some mRNA molecules and the nuclear retention of others. Here, we describe a virus expressing vhs tagged at its C terminus with a green fluorescent protein (GFP) and show that the vhs-GFP fusion protein retains the physical properties of native vhs but does not induce the degradation of mRNA. Nonetheless, vhs-GFP maintains the ability to trap the early virus transcriptome in the nucleus to favor late protein translation, proving for the first time that mRNA degradation is not a prerequisite for vhs effects on the nuclear transcriptome. This virus, therefore, has uncoupled the nuclear retention and degradation activities of vhs, providing a new understanding of vhs during infection.