The eIF2α protein plays a critical role in the regulation of translation. The production of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) during viral replication can activate protein kinase R (PKR), which phosphorylates eIF2α, leading to inhibition of the initial step of translation. Many viruses have evolved gene products targeting the PKReIF2a pathway, indicating its importance in antiviral defense. In the present study, we focused on alternations of PKR-eIF2a pathway during human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) infection while monitoring viral gene expression and infectious viral yields. We have found increased phosphorylated PKR as well as phosphorylated eIF2α coincident with accumulation of the late gp82-105 viral protein. The level of total PKR was relatively constant, but it decreased by 144 h postinfection. The phosphorylation of eIF2a led to a moderate increase in activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) accumulation, indicating moderate inhibition of protein translation during HHV-6A infection. The overexpression of PKR led to decreased viral propagation coincident with increased accumulation of phosphorylated PKR and phosphorylated eIF2a. Moreover, addition of a dominant negative PKR mutant resulted in a moderate increase in viral replication. HHV-6A exhibits relatively low efficiency of propagation of progeny virus secreted into the culture medium. This study suggests that the replicative strategy of HHV-6A involves a mild infection over a lengthy life cycle in culture, while preventing severe activation of the PKR-eIF2α pathway.
- Viral replication