The Adenovirus L4-33K Protein : A Key Regulator of Virus-specific Alternative Splicing
Abstract: Adenoviruses have been extensively studied in the field of gene regulation, since their genes are subjected to a tightly controlled temporal expression during the virus lifetime. The early-to-late shift in adenoviral gene expression distinguishes two completely different programs in gene expression. The adenoviral L4-33K protein, which is the subject of this thesis, was previously implicated to be a key player in the transition from the early to the late phase of infection. Here we show that L4-33K activates late gene expression by functioning as a virus-encoded alternative RNA splicing factor activating splicing of transcripts containing weak 3’ splice sites; a feature common to the viral genes expressed at late times of infection. The splicing enhancer activity of L4-33K was mapped to a tiny arginine/serine (RS) repeat in the carboxyl-terminal domain of the protein. Also, the subcellular distribution to the nucleus with enrichment in the nuclear membrane and subnuclear redistribution to viral replication centers during a lytic infection was observed to depend on this motif. RS repeats are common features for the cellular splicing factors serine/arginine-rich (SR) proteins, which in turn are regulated by reversible phosphorylation. We further show that L4-33K is phosphorylated by two cellular protein kinases, the double-stranded DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) and protein kinase A (PKA) in vitro. Interestingly, DNA-PK and PKA have opposite effects on the control of the temporally regulated L1 alternative RNA splicing. DNA-PK functions as an inhibitor of the late specific L1-IIIa pre-mRNA splicing whereas PKA functions as an activator of L1-IIIa pre-mRNA splicing. In summary, this thesis describes L4-33K as an SR protein related viral alternative splicing factor. A tiny RS repeat conveys splicing enhancer activity as well as redistribution of L4-33K to replication centers. Finally, DNA-PK and PKA that phosphorylates L4-33K are suggested to be novel regulatory factors controlling adenovirus alternative splicing.
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