The Epstein-Barr virus miR-BHRF1-1 targets RNF4 during productive infection to promote the accumulation of SUMO conjugates and the release of infectious virus

<div><p>Post-translational modification by the Small Ubiquitin-like Modifier (SUMO) regulates a variety of cellular functions, and is hijacked by viruses to remodel the host cell during latent and productive infection. Here we have monitored the activity of the SUMO conjugation machinery in cells productively infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). We found that SUMO2/3 conjugates accumulate during the late phase of the productive virus cycle, and identified several viral proteins as bone fide SUMOylation substrates. Analysis of the mechanism involved in the accumulation of SUMOylated proteins revealed upregulation of several components of the SUMO-conjugation machinery and post-transcriptional downregulation of the SUMO-targeted ubiquitin ligase RNF4. The latter effect was mediated by selective inhibition of RNF4 protein expression by the viral miR-BHRF1-1. Reconstitution of RNF4 in cells expressing an inducible miR-BHRF1-1 sponge or a miR-BHRF1-1 resistant RNF4 was associated with reduced levels of early and late viral proteins and impaired virus release. These findings illustrate a novel strategy for viral interference with the SUMO pathway, and identify the EBV miR-BHRF1-1 and the cellular RNF4 as regulators of the productive virus cycle.</p></div>