Ubiquitin Modification of the Epstein-Barr Virus Immediate Early Transactivator Zta Article

Full Text via DOI: 10.1128/JVI.01298-20 Web of Science: 000582729300034
International Collaboration

Cited authors

  • Zhao MM, Nanbo A, Becnel D, Qin ZQ, Morris GF, Li L, Lin Z


  • The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) immediate early transactivator Zta plays a key role in regulating the transition from latency to the lytic replication stages of EBV infection. Regulation of Zta is known to be controlled through a number of transcriptional and posttranscriptional events. Here, we show that Zta is targeted for ubiquitin modification and that this can occur in EBV-negative and in EBV-infected cells. Genetic studies show critical roles for both an amino-terminal region of Zta and the basic DNA binding domain of Zta in regulating Zta ubiquitination. Pulsechase experiments demonstrate that the bulk population of Zta is relatively stable but that at least a subset of ubiquitinated Zta molecules are targeted for degradation in the cell. Mutation of four out of a total of nine lysine residues in Zta largely abrogates its ubiquitination, indicating that these are primary ubiquitination target sites. A Zta mutant carrying mutations at these four lysine residues (lysine 12, lysine 188, lysine 207, and lysine 219) cannot induce latently infected cells to produce and/or release infectious virions. Nevertheless, this mutant can induce early gene expression, suggesting a possible defect at the level of viral replication or later in the lytic cascade. As far as we know, this is the first study that has investigated the targeting of Zta by ubiquitination or its role in Zta function.IMPORTANCE Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous human pathogen and associated with various human diseases. EBV undergoes latency and lytic replication stages in its life cycle. The transition into the lytic replication stage, at which virus is produced, is mainly regulated by the viral gene product, Zta. Therefore, the regulation of Zta function becomes a central issue regarding viral biology and pathogenesis. Known modifications of Zta include phosphorylation and sumoylation. Here, we report the role of ubiquitination in regulating Zta function. We found that Zta is subjected to ubiquitination in both EBV-infected and EBV-negative cells. The ubiquitin modification targets 4 lysine residues on Zta, leading to both mono- and polyubiquitination of Zta. Ubiquitination of Zta affects the protein's stability and likely contributes to the progression of viral lytic replication. The function and fate of Zta may be determined by the specific lysine residue being modified.

Publication date

  • 2020

Published in


International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-538X

Number of pages

  • 22


  • 94


  • 22