Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) US6 glycoprotein inhibits TAP function, resulting in down-regulation of MHC class I molecules at the cell surface. Cells lacking MHC class I molecules are susceptible to NK cell lysis. HCMV expresses UL18, a MHC class I homolog that functions as a surrogate to prevent host cell lysis. Despite a high level of sequence and structural homology between UL18 and MHC class I molecules, surface expression of MHC class I, but not UL18, is down regulated by US6. Here, we describe a mechanism of action by which HCMV UL18 avoids attack by the self-derived TAP inhibitor US6. UL18 abrogates US6 inhibition of ATP binding by TAP and, thereby, restores TAP-mediated peptide translocation. In addition, UL18 together with US6 interferes with the physical association between MHC class I molecules and TAP that is required for optimal peptide loading. Thus, regardless of the recovery of TAP function, surface expression of MHC class I molecules remains decreased. UL18 represents a unique immune evasion protein that has evolved to evade both the NK and the T cell immune responses.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology