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ORF73 of herpesvirus Saimiri strain C488 tethers the viral genome to metaphase chromosomes and binds to cis-acting DNA sequences in the terminal repeats
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Kaposi's sarcoma (KS)-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), a human oncogenic gamma-2-herpesvirus, transforms human endothelial cells and establishes latent infection at a low efficiency in vitro. During latent infection, only a limited number of genes are expressed, and the circularized viral genome is maintained as a multicopy episome. Latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA), exclusively expressed during latency, has been shown to have a multifunctional role in KS pathogenesis. LANA tethers the viral episome to the host chromosome, thus ensuring efficient persistence of the viral genome during successive rounds of cell division. Besides episome maintenance, LANA modulates the expression of genes of various cellular and viral pathways, including those of retinoblastoma protein and p53. Herpesvirus saimiri (HVS), another gamma-2-herpesvirus, primarily infects New World primates. Orf73, encoding the nuclear antigen of HVS, is the positional homolog of the LANA gene, and the ORF73 protein has some sequence homology to KSHV LANA. However, the function of ORF73 of HVS has not been thoroughly investigated. In this report, we show that HVS ORF73 may be important for episome persistence and colocalizes with the HVS genomic DNA on metaphase chromosomes. Furthermore, HVS terminal repeats (TRs) contain a cis-acting sequence similar to that in KSHV TRs, suggesting that the LANA binding sequence is conserved between these two viruses. This cis-acting element is sufficient to bind HVS ORF73 from strains C488 and A11, and plasmids containing the HVS C488 TR element are maintained and replicate in HVS C488 ORF73-expressing cells.