The nucleolus is a multifunctional nuclear compartment widely known to be involved in several cellular processes, including mRNA maturation and shuttling to cytoplasmic sites, control of the cell cycle, cell proliferation, and apoptosis; thus, it is logical that many viruses, including herpesvirus, target the nucleolus in order to exploit at least one of the above-mentioned functions. Recent studies from our group demonstrated the early accumulation of the incoming ppUL83 (pp65), the major tegument protein of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), in the nucleolus. The obtained results also suggested that a functional relationship might exist between the nucleolar localization of pp65, rRNA synthesis, and the development of the lytic program of viral gene expression. Here we present new data which support the hypothesis of a potentially relevant role of HCMV pp65 and its nucleolar localization for the control of the cell cycle by HCMV (arrest of cell proliferation in G1-G1/S), and for the promotion of viral infection. We demonstrated that, although the incoming pp65 amount in the infected cells appears to be constant irrespective of the cell-cycle phase, its nucleolar accumulation is prominent in G1 and G1/S, but very poor in S or G2/M. This correlates with the observation that only cells in G1 and G1/S support an efficient development of the HCMV lytic cycle. We propose that HCMV pp65 might be involved in regulatory/signaling pathways related to nucleolar functions, such as the cell-cycle control. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments have permitted to identify nucleolin as one of the nucleolar partners of pp65.
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