Molluscum Contagiosum Virus Protein MC005 Inhibits NF-κB Activation by Targeting NEMO-Regulated IκB Kinase Activation.J Virol 2017; 91(15)JV
Molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV), the only known extant human-adapted poxvirus, causes a long-duration infection characterized by skin lesions that typically display an absence of inflammation despite containing high titers of live virus. Despite this curious presentation, MCV is very poorly characterized in terms of host-pathogen interactions. The absence of inflammation around MCV lesions suggests the presence of potent inhibitors of human antiviral immunity and inflammation. However, only a small number of MCV immunomodulatory genes have been characterized in detail. It is likely that many more remain to be discovered, given the density of such sequences in other poxvirus genomes. NF-κB activation occurs in response to both virus-induced pattern recognition receptor (PRR) signaling and cellular activation by virus-induced proinflammatory cytokines like tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-1. Activated NF-κB drives cytokine and interferon gene expression, leading to inflammation and virus clearance. We report that MC005, which has no orthologs in other poxvirus genomes, is a novel inhibitor of PRR- and cytokine-stimulated NF-κB activation. MC005 inhibited NF-κB proximal to the IκB kinase (IKK) complex, and unbiased affinity purification revealed that MC005 interacts with the IKK subunit NEMO (NF-κB essential modulator). MC005 binding to NEMO prevents the conformational priming of the IKK complex that occurs when NEMO binds to ubiquitin chains during pathway activation. These data reveal a novel mechanism of poxvirus inhibition of human innate immunity, validate current dynamic models of NEMO-dependent IKK complex activation, and further clarify how the human-adapted poxvirus MCV can so effectively evade antiviral immunity and suppress inflammation to persist in human skin lesions.IMPORTANCE Poxviruses adapt to specific hosts over time, evolving and tailoring elegantly precise inhibitors of the rate-limiting steps within the signaling pathways that control innate immunity and inflammation. These inhibitors reveal new features of the antiviral response, clarify existing models of signaling regulation while offering potent new tools for approaching therapeutic intervention in autoimmunity and inflammatory disease. Molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) is the only known extant poxvirus specifically adapted to human infection and appears adept at evading normal human antiviral responses, yet it remains poorly characterized. We report the identification of MCV protein MC005 as an inhibitor of the pathways leading to the activation of NF-κB, an essential regulator of innate immunity. Further, identification of the mechanism of inhibition of NF-κB by MC005 confirms current models of the complex way in which NF-κB is regulated and greatly expands our understanding of how MCV so effectively evades human immunity.