Identification of host factors involved in human cytomegalovirus replication, assembly and egress using a two-step siRNA screen

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As obligate intracellular parasites, viruses are completely dependent on host factors for replication. Assembly and egress of complex virus particles, such as human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), are likely to require many host factors. Despite this, relatively few have been identified and characterized. This study describes a novel high-throughput, two-step small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen, which independently measures virus replication and virus production. By combining data from replication and virus production, multiple candidate genes were identified in which knockdown resulted in substantial loss of virus production with limited effect on primary replication, suggesting roles in later stages such as virus assembly and egress. Knockdown of the top candidates, ERC1, RAB4B, COPA, and COPB2, caused profound loss of virus production. Despite COPA and COPB2 being reported to function in the same complex, knockdown of these genes produced distinct phenotypes. Furthermore, knockdown of COPA caused increased expression of viral late genes despite substantial inhibition of viral DNA replication. This suggests that efficient viral genome replication is not required for late gene expression. Finally, we show that RAB4B relocates to the viral assembly compartment following infection with HCMV and knockdown of RAB4B reduces the release of intact virion particles, suggesting that it plays a role in virion assembly and egress. This study demonstrates a powerful high-throughput screen for identification of host-virus interactions, identifies multiple host genes associated with HCMV assembly and egress, and uncovers potentially independent functions for coatomer components COPA and COPB2 during infection.IMPORTANCE Human cytomegalovirus infection is a significant cause of disease in immunocompromised populations, individuals with heart disease, and recipients of solid organ and bone marrow transplants. HCMV is also the leading cause of infectious congenital birth defects. The majority of antivirals in clinical use target components of the virus to specifically inhibit replication. However, a major drawback of this approach is the emergence of resistance. An alternative approach is to target host factors that the virus requires for successful infection. In this study, multiple host factors were identified that were found to be essential for the production of newly infectious human cytomegalovirus. Identifying which host genes are necessary for virus replication extends our understanding of how viruses replicate and how cells function and provides potential targets for novel antivirals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00716-18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2018


  • assembly and egress
  • COPA
  • COPB2
  • ERC1
  • human cytomegalovirus
  • RAB4B
  • systematic
  • coatomer
  • virology


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