Role of Marek's disease virus (MDV)-Encoded US3 serine/threonine protein kinase in regulating MDV meq and cellular CREB phosphorylation

Yifei Liao, Blanca Lupiani, Kanika Bajwa, Owais A. Khan, Yoshihiro Izumiya, Sanjay M. Reddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Marek's disease (MD) is a neoplastic disease of chickens caused by Marek's disease virus (MDV), a member of the subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae. Like other alphaherpesviruses, MDV encodes a serine/threonine protein kinase, US3. The functions of US3 have been extensively studied in other alphaherpesviruses; however, the biological functions of MDV US3 and its substrates have not been studied in detail. In this study, we investigated potential cellular pathways that are regulated by MDV US3 and identified chicken CREB (chCREB) as a substrate of MDV US3. We show that wild-type MDV US3, but not kinase-dead US3 (US3-K220A), increases CREB phosphorylation, leading to recruitment of phospho-CREB (pCREB) to the promoter of the CREB-responsive gene and activation of CREB target gene expression. Using US3 deletion and US3 kinase-dead recombinant MDV, we identified US3-responsive MDV genes during infection and found that the majority of US3-responsive genes were located in the MDV repeat regions. Chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) studies determined that some US3-regulated genes colocalized with Meq (an MDV-encoded oncoprotein) recruitment sites. Chromatin immunoprecipitation-PCR (ChIP-PCR) further confirmed Meq binding to the ICP4/LAT region, which is also regulated by US3. Furthermore, biochemical studies demonstrated that MDV US3 interacts with Meq in transfected cells and MDV-infected chicken embryonic fibroblasts in a phosphorylation-dependent manner. Finally, in vitro kinase studies revealed that Meq is a US3 substrate. MDV US3 thus acts as an upstream kinase of the CREB signaling pathway to regulate the transcription function of the CREB/Meq heterodimer, which targets cellular and viral gene expression. IMPORTANCE MDV is a potent oncogenic herpesvirus that induces T-cell lymphoma in infected chickens. Marek's disease continues to have a significant economic impact on the poultry industry worldwide. US3 encoded by alphaherpesviruses is a multifunctional kinase involved in the regulation of various cellular pathways. Using an MDV genome quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) array and chromatin immunoprecipitation, we elucidated the role of MDV US3 in viral and cellular gene regulation. Our results provide insights into how viral kinase regulates host cell signaling pathways to activate both viral and host gene expression. This is an important step toward understanding host-pathogen interaction through activation of signaling cascades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00892-20
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • CREB
  • Herpesviruses
  • Marek's disease virus
  • Meq
  • Transcription regulation
  • US3 protein kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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