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The Interaction between ORF18 and ORF30 Is Required for Late Gene Expression in Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus.


In the beta- and gammaherpesviruses, a specialized complex of viral transcriptional activators (vTAs) coordinate to direct expression of virus-encoded late genes, which are critical for viral assembly and whose transcription initiates only after the onset of viral DNA replication. The vTAs in Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) are ORF18, ORF24, ORF30, ORF31, ORF34, and ORF66. While the general organization of the vTA complex has been mapped, the individual roles of these proteins and how they coordinate to activate late gene promoters remain largely unknown. Here, we performed a comprehensive mutational analysis of the conserved residues in ORF18, which is a highly interconnected vTA component. Surprisingly, the mutants were largely selective for disrupting the interaction with ORF30 but not the other three ORF18 binding partners. Furthermore, disrupting the ORF18-ORF30 interaction weakened the vTA complex as a whole, and an ORF18 point mutant that failed to bind ORF30 was unable to complement an ORF18 null virus. Thus, contacts between individual vTAs are critical as even small disruptions in this complex result in profound defects in KSHV late gene expression.IMPORTANCE Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the etiologic agent of Kaposi's sarcoma and other B-cell cancers and remains a leading cause of death in immunocompromised individuals. A key step in the production of infectious virions is the transcription of viral late genes, which generates capsid and structural proteins and requires the coordination of six viral proteins that form a complex. The role of these proteins during transcription complex formation and the importance of protein-protein interactions are not well understood. Here, we focused on a central component of the complex, ORF18, and revealed that disruption of its interaction with even a single component of the complex (ORF30) prevents late gene expression and completion of the viral lifecycle. These findings underscore how individual interactions between the late gene transcription components are critical for both the stability and function of the complex.

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