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HCMV-secreted glycoprotein gpUL4 inhibits TRAIL-mediated apoptosis and NK cell activation

Vlachava, Virginia-Maria ORCID:, Seirafian, Sepehr, Fielding, Ceri A. ORCID:, Kollnberger, Simon, Aicheler, Rebecca J., Hughes, Joseph, Baker, Alexander ORCID:, Weekes, Michael P., Forbes, Simone, Wilkinson, Gavin W. G., Wang, Eddie C. Y. ORCID: and Stanton, Richard J. ORCID: 2023. HCMV-secreted glycoprotein gpUL4 inhibits TRAIL-mediated apoptosis and NK cell activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120 (49) , e2309077120. 10.1073/pnas.2309077120

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Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a paradigm of pathogen immune evasion and sustains lifelong persistent infection in the face of exceptionally powerful host immune responses through the concerted action of multiple immune-evasins. These reduce NK cell activation by inhibiting ligands for activating receptors, expressing ligands for inhibitory receptors, or inhibiting synapse formation. However, these functions only inhibit direct interactions with the infected cell. To determine whether the virus also expresses soluble factors that could modulate NK function at a distance, we systematically screened all 170 HCMV canonical protein-coding genes. This revealed that UL4 encodes a secreted and heavily glycosylated protein (gpUL4) that is expressed with late-phase kinetics and is capable of inhibiting NK cell degranulation. Analyses of gpUL4 binding partners by mass spectrometry identified an interaction with TRAIL. gpUL4 bound TRAIL with picomolar affinity and prevented TRAIL from binding its receptor, thus acting as a TRAIL decoy receptor. TRAIL is found in both soluble and membrane-bound forms, with expression of the membrane-bound form strongly up-regulated on NK cells in response to interferon. gpUL4 inhibited apoptosis induced by soluble TRAIL, while also binding to the NK cell surface in a TRAIL-dependent manner, where it blocked NK cell degranulation and cytokine secretion. gpUL4 therefore acts as an immune-evasin by inhibiting both soluble and membrane-bound TRAIL and is a viral-encoded TRAIL decoy receptor. Interestingly, gpUL4 could also suppress NK responses to heterologous viruses, suggesting that it may act as a systemic virally encoded immunosuppressive agent.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Systems Immunity Research Institute (SIURI)
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
ISSN: 0027-8424
Funders: MRC, Wellcome Trust
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 29 November 2023
Date of Acceptance: 7 October 2023
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2023 15:49

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