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Strain-Dependent Restriction of Human Cytomegalovirus by Zinc Finger Antiviral Proteins.

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Lista, Maria Jose 
Witney, Adam A 
Nichols, Jenna 


Cellular antiviral factors that recognize viral nucleic acid can inhibit virus replication. These include the zinc finger antiviral protein (ZAP), which recognizes high CpG dinucleotide content in viral RNA. Here, we investigated the ability of ZAP to inhibit the replication of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). Depletion of ZAP or its cofactor KHNYN increased the titer of the high-passage HCMV strain AD169 but had little effect on the titer of the low-passage strain Merlin. We found no obvious difference in expression of several viral proteins between AD169 and Merlin in ZAP knockdown cells, but observed a larger increase in infectious virus in AD169 compared to Merlin in the absence of ZAP, suggesting that ZAP inhibited events late in AD169 replication. In addition, there was no clear difference in the CpG abundance of AD169 and Merlin RNAs, indicating that genomic content of the two virus strains was unlikely to be responsible for differences in their sensitivity to ZAP. Instead, we observed less ZAP expression in Merlin-infected cells late in replication compared to AD169-infected cells, which may be related to different abilities of the two virus strains to regulate interferon signaling. Therefore, there are strain-dependent differences in the sensitivity of HCMV to ZAP, and the ability of low-passage HCMV strain Merlin to evade inhibition by ZAP is likely related to its ability to regulate interferon signaling, not the CpG content of RNAs produced from its genome. IMPORTANCE Determining the function of cellular antiviral factors can inform our understanding of virus replication. The zinc finger antiviral protein (ZAP) can inhibit the replication of diverse viruses. Here, we examined ZAP interaction with the DNA virus human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). We found HCMV strain-dependent differences in the ability of ZAP to influence HCMV replication, which may be related to the interaction of HCMV strains with the type I interferon system. These observations affect our current understanding of how ZAP restricts HCMV and how HCMV interacts with the type I interferon system.



cytomegalovirus, herpesviruses, interferons, zinc finger antiviral protein, Humans, Cytomegalovirus, Neurofibromin 2, RNA-Binding Proteins, Virus Replication, Antiviral Agents, Interferon Type I, Zinc Fingers

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J Virol

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American Society for Microbiology
MRC (MR/W025647/1)