The rat cytomegalovirus homologue of parvoviral rep genes, r127, encodes a nuclear protein with single- and double-stranded DNA-binding activity that is dispensable for virus replication
van Cleef, Koen W R × Scaf, Wendy M A Maes, Karen Kaptein, Suzanne J F Beuken, Erik Beisser, Patrick S Stassen, Frank R M Grauls, Gert E L M Bruggeman, Cathrien A Vink, Cornelis #
Journal of General Virology vol:85 issue:Pt 7 pages:2001-13
An intriguing feature of the rat cytomegalovirus (RCMV) genome is open reading frame (ORF) r127, which shows similarity to the rep genes of parvoviruses as well as the U94 genes of human herpesvirus type 6A (HHV-6A) and 6B (HHV-6B). Counterparts of these genes have not been found in other herpesviruses. Here, it is shown that the r127 gene is transcribed during the early and late phases of virus replication in vitro as an unspliced 1.1 kb transcript containing the complete r127 ORF. Transcripts of r127 were also detected in various organs of RCMV-infected rats at 1 week post-infection (p.i.), but only in the salivary gland at 4 months p.i. Using rabbit polyclonal antibodies raised against the r127-encoded protein (pr127), pr127 was found to be expressed as early as 12 h p.i. within the nuclei of RCMV-infected cells in vitro. Expression of pr127 was also observed within the nuclei of cells in various organs of RCMV-infected rats at 3 weeks p.i. Moreover, pr127 was demonstrated to bind single- as well as double-stranded DNA. Finally, an RCMV r127 deletion mutant (RCMVDeltar127) was generated, in which the r127 ORF was disrupted. This deletion mutant, however, was shown to replicate with a similar efficiency as wild-type RCMV (wt RCMV), both in vitro and in vivo. Taken together, it is concluded that the RCMV r127 gene encodes a nuclear protein with single- and double-stranded DNA-binding activity that is dispensable for virus replication, not only in vitro, but also during the acute phase of infection in vivo.