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Human cytomegalovirus protein pUL36: a dual cell death pathway inhibitor

By Alice Fletcher-Etherington, Luis Nobre, Katie Nightingale, Robin Antrobus, Jenna Nichols, Andrew J. Davison, Richard J Stanton, Michael P. Weekes

Posted 04 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.03.928564 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2001887117)

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is an important human pathogen and a paradigm of intrinsic, innate and adaptive viral immune evasion. Here, we employed multiplexed tandem mass tag-based proteomics to characterise host proteins targeted for degradation late during HCMV infection. This approach revealed that mixed lineage kinase domain-like protein (MLKL), a key terminal mediator of cellular necroptosis, was rapidly and persistently degraded by the minimally passaged HCMV strain Merlin but not the extensively passaged strain AD169. The strain Merlin viral inhibitor of apoptosis pUL36 was necessary and sufficient both to degrade MLKL and to inhibit necroptosis. Furthermore, mutation of pUL36 Cys131 abrogated MLKL degradation and restored necroptosis. As the same residue is also required for pUL36-mediated inhibition of apoptosis by preventing proteolytic activation of pro-caspase 8, we define pUL36 as a multifunctional inhibitor of both apoptotic and necroptotic cell death.

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