Natural killer (NK) cells are innate immune lymphocytes capable of killing target cells without prior sensitization. One pivotal activating NK receptor is NKG2D, which binds a family of eight ligands, including the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I-related chain A (MICA). Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a ubiquitous betaherpesvirus causing morbidity and mortality in immunosuppressed patients and congenitally infected infants. HCMV encodes multiple antagonists of NK cell activation, including many mechanisms targeting MICA. However, only one of these mechanisms, the HCMV protein US9, counters the most prevalent MICA allele, MICA*008. Here, we discover that a hitherto uncharacterized HCMV protein, UL147A, specifically downregulates MICA*008. UL147A primarily induces MICA*008 maturation arrest, and additionally targets it to proteasomal degradation, acting additively with US9 during HCMV infection. Thus, UL147A hinders NKG2D-mediated elimination of HCMV-infected cells by NK cells. Mechanistic analyses disclose that the noncanonical GPI anchoring pathway of immature MICA*008 constitutes the determinant of UL147A specificity for this MICA allele. These findings advance our understanding of the complex and rapidly evolving HCMV immune evasion mechanisms, which may facilitate the development of antiviral drugs and vaccines.
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© 2021 Seidel et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.