BACKGROUND - Kaposi sarcoma-associated human herpesvirus (KSHV) encodes K-cyclin, a homologue of D-type cellular cyclins, which binds cyclin-dependent kinases to phosphorylate various substrates. K-cyclin/cdk phosphorylates a subset of substrates normally targeted by cyclins D, E, and A. We used cells naturally infected with KSHV to further characterize the biochemical features of K-cyclin.
METHODS - We used immunoprecipitation with K-cyclin antibodies to examine the association of K-cyclin with cdk2, cdk6, p21Cip1, and p27Kip1 proteins in BC3 cells. We separated populations of BC3 cells enriched in cells in G1, S, or G2/M phases by elutriation and measured K-cyclin protein and the kinase activity of K-cyclin/cdk6 complexes. The half-life of K-cyclin and cyclin D2 proteins was determined by blocking protein synthesis with cycloheximide and measuring proteins in cell lysates by western blot analysis. We fused the entire K-cyclin sequence to the carboxyl-terminal sequence of cellular cyclin D that contains the PEST degradation sequence to produce K-cyclin/D2 and transfected K-cyclin/D2 into K-cyclin-negative cells to investigate the effect of the PEST sequence on K-cyclin's stability.
RESULTS - Viral K-cyclin interacted with cyclin-dependent kinases cdk2, cdk4, and cdk6 and with the cyclin/cdk inhibitory proteins p21Cip1 and p27Kip1 in BC3 cell lysates. Unlike D-type cyclins, whose expression is cell cycle dependent, the level of K-cyclin was stable throughout the cell cycle, and the kinase associated with the K-cyclin/cdk6 complex was constitutively active. The half-life of K-cyclin (6.9 hours) was much longer than that of cellular cyclin D2 (0.6 hour) and that of K-cyclin/D2 (0.5 hour), probably because K-cyclin lacks the PEST degradation sequence present in D-type cyclins.
CONCLUSION - The constitutive activation of K-cyclin/cdk complexes in KSHV-infected cells appears to result from the extended half-life of K-cyclin and may explain its role in Kaposi sarcoma.