Loss of protein kinase PKR expression in human HeLa cells complements the vaccinia virus E3L deletion mutant phenotype by restoration of viral protein synthesis

Ping Zhang, Bertram Jacobs, Charles E. Samuel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

66 Scopus citations


The E3L proteins encoded by vaccinia virus bind double-stranded RNA and mediate interferon resistance, promote virus growth, and impair virus-mediated apoptosis. Among the cellular proteins implicated as targets of E3L is the protein kinase regulated by RNA (PKR). To test in human cells the role of PKR in conferring the E3L mutant phenotype, HeLa cells stably deficient in PKR generated by an RNA interference-silencing strategy were compared to parental and control knockdown cells following infection with either an E3L deletion mutant (AE3L) or wild-type (WT) virus. The growth yields of WT virus were comparable in PKR-sufficient and -deficient cells. By contrast, the single-cycle yield of ΔE3L virus was increased by nearly 2 log10 in PKR-deficient cells over the impaired growth in PKR-sufficient cells. Furthermore, virus-induced apoptosis characteristic of the ΔE3L mutant in PKR-sufflcient cells was effectively abolished in PKR-deficient HeLa cells. The viral protein synthesis pattern was altered in ΔE3L-infected PKR-sufficient cells, characterized by an inhibition of late viral protein expression, whereas in PKR-deficient cells, late protein accumulation was restored. Phosphorylation of both PKR and the α subunit of protein synthesis initiation factor 2 (eIF-2α) was elevated severalfold in ΔE3L-infected PKR-sufflcient, but not PKR-deficient, cells. WT virus did not significantly increase PKR or eIF-2α phosphorylation in either PKR-sufficient or -deficient cells, both of which supported efficient WT viral protein production. Finally, apoptosis induced by infection of PKR-sufficient HeLa cells with AE3L virus was blocked by a caspase antagonist, but mutant virus growth was not rescued, suggesting that translation inhibition rather than apoptosis activation is a principal factor limiting virus growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)840-848
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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