Signal peptide-dependent inhibition of MHC class I heavy chain translation by rhesus cytomegalovirus

Colin J. Powers, Klaus Früh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The US2-11 region of human and rhesus cytomegalovirus encodes a conserved family of glycoproteins that inhibit MHC-I assembly with viral peptides, thus preventing cytotoxic T cell recognition. Since HCMV lacking US2-11 is no longer able to block assembly and transport of MHC-I, we examined whether this is also observed for RhCMV lacking the corresponding region. Unexpectedly, recombinant RhCMV lacking US2-11 was still able to inhibit MHC-I expression in infected fibroblasts, suggesting the presence of an additional MHC-I evasion mechanism. Progressive deletion analysis of RhCMV-specific genomic regions revealed that MHC-I expression is fully restored upon additional deletion of rh178. The protein encoded by this RhCMV-specific open reading frame is anchored in the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. In the presence of rh178, RhCMV prevented MHC-I heavy chain (HC) expression, but did not inhibit mRNA transcription or association of HC mRNA with translating ribosomes. Proteasome inhibitors stabilized a HC degradation intermediate in the absence of rh178, but not in its presence, suggesting that rh178 prevents completion of HC translation. This interference was signal sequencedependent since replacing the signal peptide with that of CD4 or murine HC rendered human HCs resistant to rh178. We have identified an inhibitor of antigen presentation encoded by rhesus cytomegalovirus unique in both its lack of homology to any other known protein and in its mechanism of action. By preventing signal sequence-dependent HC translocation, rh178 acts prior to US2, US3 and US11 which attack MHC-I proteins after protein synthesis is completed. Rh178 is the first viral protein known to interfere at this step of the MHC-I pathway, thus taking advantage of the conserved nature of HC leader peptides, and represents a new mechanism of translational interference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1000150
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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