The nested open reading frame in the Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen-1 mRNA encodes a protein capable of inhibiting antigen presentation in cis.
Ossevoort M., Zaldumbide A., te Velthuis AJ., Melchers M., Ressing ME., Wiertz EJ., Hoeben RC.
Herpesviruses employ many mechanisms to evade the immune response, allowing them to persist life-long in their hosts. The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA-1) and, more recently, the latency-associated nuclear antigen 1 (LANA-1) of the Kaposi Sarcoma Herpesvirus have been shown to function as in cis-acting inhibitors of antigen presentation. In both proteins, long simple repeat elements are responsible for the inhibition, but the sequences of these repeats are strongly dissimilar. Intriguingly, EBNA-1 mRNA contains a large nested open reading frame that codes for a 40.7kDa strongly acidic protein, in addition to the full-length EBNA-1. This protein, here called pGZr, has a 230 amino-acids long glycine, glutamine, and glutamic acid-rich repeat ('GZ' repeat), highly similar (65% amino-acid identity) to the acidic repeat of LANA-1. To evaluate if pGZr, like EBNA-1 and LANA-1, can inhibit antigen presentation in cis, we fused the nested ORF with the E. coli-derived LacZ gene encoding beta-galactosidase. Whereas cells producing the unmodified beta-galactosidase readily present the H-2L(d)-restricted CTL epitope TPHPARIGL, which resides in the C-terminal region of beta-galactosidase, cells producing the pGZr-beta-galactosidase fusion protein do not. Also shorter fragments of the repeat can inhibit peptide presentation. Even though the physiological function of pGZr remains to be elucidated, the GZ-repeat protein may be valuable as inhibitor of presentation of antigenic peptides derived from transgenes in gene therapy.