Cytomegalovirus Downregulates IRE1 to Repress the Unfolded Protein Response

Sebastian Stahl, Julia M. Burkhart, Florian Hinte, Boaz Tirosh, Hermine Mohr, René P. Zahedi, Albert Sickmann, Zsolt Ruzsics, Matthias Budt, Wolfram Brune*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


During viral infection, a massive demand for viral glycoproteins can overwhelm the capacity of the protein folding and quality control machinery, leading to an accumulation of unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). To restore ER homeostasis, cells initiate the unfolded protein response (UPR) by activating three ER-to-nucleus signaling pathways, of which the inositol-requiring enzyme 1 (IRE1)-dependent pathway is the most conserved. To reduce ER stress, the UPR decreases protein synthesis, increases degradation of unfolded proteins, and upregulates chaperone expression to enhance protein folding. Cytomegaloviruses, as other viral pathogens, modulate the UPR to their own advantage. However, the molecular mechanisms and the viral proteins responsible for UPR modulation remained to be identified. In this study, we investigated the modulation of IRE1 signaling by murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) and found that IRE1-mediated mRNA splicing and expression of the X-box binding protein 1 (XBP1) is repressed in infected cells. By affinity purification, we identified the viral M50 protein as an IRE1-interacting protein. M50 expression in transfected or MCMV-infected cells induced a substantial downregulation of IRE1 protein levels. The N-terminal conserved region of M50 was found to be required for interaction with and downregulation of IRE1. Moreover, UL50, the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) homolog of M50, affected IRE1 in the same way. Thus we concluded that IRE1 downregulation represents a previously undescribed viral strategy to curb the UPR.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere1003544
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


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