A20 possesses both deubiquitinase (DUB) and ubiquitin E3 ligase activities that are required for termination of Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling leading to NF-kappaB activation and for blockage of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-induced cytotoxicity and apoptosis. A20 is induced by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) oncoprotein LMP1. However, its dual ubiquitin-editing activities have not been investigated in the context of either EBV infection or IRF7 responses. Both A20 and IRF7 have oncogenic properties. We have recently shown that LMP1 activates IRF7 through K63-linked ubiquitination which requires RIP1 and TRAF6, but how this ubiquitination event is regulated has not been studied. Here, we show that A20 negatively regulates IRF7 transcriptional activity induced by LMP1. Deletion or mutation of A20 C-terminal zinc finger motifs had no effect on the inhibition of IRF7 activity, whereas DUB-deficient truncation or point mutation ablated the ability of A20 to inhibit IRF7. Correspondingly, the A20 N-terminal DUB domain, but not the C-terminal E3 ligase domain, interacts physically with IRF7. Transient expression of A20 reduced K63-linked ubiquitination of IRF7 in vivo, but an in vitro deubiquitination assay with purified constituents shows that IRF7 did not act as a substrate for A20 DUB activity. Moreover, A20 interacts with IRF7 endogenously in latently EBV-infected type 3 Raji cells, in which expression of both A20 and IRF7 is constitutively induced by the considerable level of endogenous LMP1. Knockdown of endogenous A20 in Raji cells by expression of A20 short hairpin RNA (shRNA) vectors increases endogenous IRF7 activity and ubiquitination, as well as the protein level of LMP1, a target of IRF7. Thus, A20 negatively regulates LMP1-stimulated IRF7 ubiquitination and activity in EBV latency, and its DUB activity is indispensable for this function. Finally, we discussed the regulation and function of IRFs in EBV latency.
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