mBio 2017 07 118(4) pii 10.1128/mBio.00576-17
From various screens, we found that Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) viral microRNAs (miRNAs) target several enzymes in the mevalonate/cholesterol pathway. 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (CoA) synthase 1 (HMGCS1), 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR [a rate-limiting step in the mevalonate pathway]), and farnesyl-diphosphate farnesyltransferase 1 (FDFT1 [a committed step in the cholesterol branch]) are repressed by multiple KSHV miRNAs. Transfection of viral miRNA mimics in primary endothelial cells (human umbilical vein endothelial cells [HUVECs]) is sufficient to reduce intracellular cholesterol levels; however, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting only HMGCS1 did not reduce cholesterol levels. This suggests that multiple targets are needed to perturb this tightly regulated pathway. We also report here that cholesterol levels were decreased in de novo-infected HUVECs after 7 days. This reduction is at least partially due to viral miRNAs, since the mutant form of KSHV lacking 10 of the 12 miRNA genes had increased cholesterol compared to wild-type infections. We hypothesized that KSHV is downregulating cholesterol to suppress the antiviral response by a modified form of cholesterol, 25-hydroxycholesterol (25HC). We found that the cholesterol 25-hydroxylase (CH25H) gene, which is responsible for generating 25HC, had increased expression in de novo-infected HUVECs but was strongly suppressed in long-term latently infected cell lines. We found that 25HC inhibits KSHV infection when added exogenously prior to de novo infection. In conclusion, we found that multiple KSHV viral miRNAs target enzymes in the mevalonate pathway to modulate cholesterol in infected cells during latency. This repression of cholesterol levels could potentially be beneficial to viral infection by decreasing the levels of 25HC.IMPORTANCE A subset of viruses express unique microRNAs (miRNAs), which act like cellular miRNAs to generally repress host gene expression. A cancer virus, Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV, or human herpesvirus 8 [HHV-8]), encodes multiple miRNAs that repress gene expression of multiple enzymes that are important for cholesterol synthesis. In cells with these viral miRNAs or with natural infection, cholesterol levels are reduced, indicating these viral miRNAs decrease cholesterol levels. A modified form of cholesterol, 25-hydroxycholesterol, is generated directly from cholesterol. Addition of 25-hydroxycholesterol to primary cells inhibited KSHV infection of cells, suggesting that viral miRNAs may decrease cholesterol levels to decrease the concentration of 25-hydroxycholesterol and to promote infection. These results suggest a new virus-host relationship and indicate a previously unidentified viral strategy to lower cholesterol levels.