Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a widespread pathogen and a member of the Herpesviridae family. HCMV has a large genome that encodes many genes that are non-essential for virus replication but instead play roles in manipulation of the host immune environment. One of these is the US27 gene, which encodes a protein with homology to the chemokine receptor family of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). The US27 protein has no known chemokine ligands but can modulate the signaling activity of host receptor CXCR4. We investigated the mechanism for enhanced CXCR4 signaling in the presence of US27 using a novel biosensor system comprised of fluorogen activating proteins (FAPs). FAP-tagged CXCR4 and US27 were used to explore receptor internalization and recovery dynamics, and the results demonstrate that significantly more CXCR4 internalization was observed in the presence of US27 compared to CXCR4 alone upon stimulation with CXCL12. While ligand-induced endocytosis rates were higher, steady state internalization of CXCR4 was not affected by US27. Additionally, US27 underwent rapid endocytosis at a rate that was independent of either CXCR4 expression or CXCL12 stimulation. These results demonstrate that one mechanism by which US27 can enhance CXCR4 signaling is to alter receptor internalization dynamics, which could ultimately have the effect of promoting virus dissemination by increasing trafficking of HCMV-infected cells to tissues where CXCL12 is highly expressed.
Boeck JM, Spencer JV (2017) Effect of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) US27 on CXCR4 receptor internalization measured by fluorogen-activating protein (FAP) biosensors. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0172042. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0172042