Human cytomegalovirus immediate early 86-kda protein blocks transcription and induces degradation of the immature interleukin-1β protein during virion-mediated activation of the AIM2 inflammasome

Sara Botto, Jinu Abraham, Nobuyo Mizuno, Kara Pryke, Bryan Gall, Igor Landais, Daniel N. Streblow, Klaus J. Fruh, Victor R. DeFilippis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Secretion of interleukin-1β (IL-1β) represents a fundamental innate immune response to microbial infection that, at the molecular level, occurs following activation of proteolytic caspases that cleave the immature protein into a secretable form. Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the archetypal betaherpesvirus that is invariably capable of lifelong infection through the activity of numerous virally encoded immune evasion phenotypes. Innate immune pathways responsive to cytoplasmic double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) are known to be activated in response to contact between HCMV and host cells. Here, we used clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) genome editing to demonstrate that the dsDNA receptor absent in melanoma 2 (AIM2) is required for secretion of IL-1β following HCMV infection. Furthermore, dsDNAresponsive innate signaling induced by HCMV infection that leads to activation of the type I interferon response is also shown, unexpectedly, to play a contributory role in IL-1β secretion. Importantly, we also show that rendering virus particles inactive by UV exposure leads to substantially increased IL-1β processing and secretion and that live HCMV can inhibit this, suggesting the virus encodes factors that confer an inhibitory effect on this response. Further examination revealed that ectopic expression of the immediate early (IE) 86-kDa protein (IE86) is actually associated with a block in transcription of the pro-IL-1β gene and, independently, diminishment of the immature protein. Overall, these results reveal two new and distinct phenotypes conferred by the HCMV IE86 protein, as well as an unusual circumstance in which a single herpesviral protein exhibits inhibitory effects on multiple molecular processes within the same innate immune response. IMPORTANCE Persistent infection with HCMV is associated with the operation of diverse evasion phenotypes directed at antiviral immunity. Obstruction of intrinsic and innate immune responses is typically conferred by viral proteins either associated with the viral particle or expressed immediately after entry. In line with this, numerous phenotypes are attributed to the HCMV IE86 protein that involve interference with innate immune processes via transcriptional and proteindirected mechanisms. We describe novel IE86-mediated phenotypes aimed at virus-induced secretion of IL-1β. Intriguingly, while many viruses target the function of the molecular scaffold required for IL-1β maturation to prevent this response, we find that HCMV and IE86 target the IL-1β protein specifically. Moreover, we show that IE86 impairs both the synthesis of the IL-1β transcript and the stability of the immature protein. This indicates an unusual phenomenon in which a single viral protein exhibits two molecularly separate evasion phenotypes directed at a single innate cytokine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02510-18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • AIM2
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • DNA sensor
  • HCMV
  • IE2
  • IE86
  • Inflammasome
  • Innate immunity
  • Interferons
  • cGAS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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