JC virus T' proteins encoded by alternatively spliced early mRNAs enhance T antigen-mediated viral DNA replication in human cells
AbstractAlternative splicing of the JC Virus (JCV) precursor early mRNA yields five transcripts that encode proteins that regulate the life cycle of this human polyomavirus. Large T protein (TAg) mediates viral DNA replication and oncogenic activities, and small t protein influences these functions under certain conditions. Recently, three new early proteins, T' 135 , T' 136 , and T' 165 , were discovered that contain sequences overlapping amino-terminal TAg functional domains. Initial studies with the T' proteins suggested they contribute to viral DNA replication and transformation. Mutation of a donor splice site utilized by all three T' mRNAs creates a mutant that exhibits a 10-fold decrease in viral DNA replication compared to wild type JCV. To assess the influence that individual T' proteins have on the replication process, a set of T' acceptor site mutants was created in which the unique second acceptor splice site of each T' mRNA was altered to eliminate production of one, two or all three T' mRNAs. The patterns of early mRNA and protein expression in these seven mutants were examined, and it was found that mutation of the T' 135 acceptor site resulted in the utilization of cryptic splice sites and the generation of new T' species. Additional mutations were made to prevent these aberrant splicing reactions prior to measuring DNA replication potential of the mutants. DpnI assays revealed that each T' protein contributes to TAg-mediated DNA replication activity. The three single mutants that express two T' proteins and the double mutant that only produces T' 136 , exhibited levels of replication equivalent to that of wild type virus, whereas the two double mutants that fail to express T' 136 replicated about twofold less efficiently than wild-type JCV. Replication activity of the triple acceptor site mutant, like that of the T' donor site mutant from an earlier study, was impaired significantly.