Down-regulation of NKG2D and NKp80 ligands by Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus K5 protects against NK cell cytotoxicity.
Thomas M., Boname JM., Field S., Nejentsev S., Salio M., Cerundolo V., Wills M., Lehner PJ.
Natural killer (NK) cells are important early mediators of host immunity to viral infections. The NK activatory receptors NKG2D and NKp80, both C-type lectin-like homodimeric receptors, stimulate NK cell cytotoxicity toward target cells. Like other herpesviruses, Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) down-regulates MHC class I molecules to avoid detection by cytotoxic T lymphocytes but renders cells susceptible to NK cell cytotoxicity. We now show that the KSHV immune evasion gene, K5, reduces cell surface expression of the NKG2D ligands MHC class I-related chain A (MICA), MICB, and the newly defined ligand for NKp80, activation-induced C-type lectin (AICL). Down-regulation of both MICA and AICL requires the ubiquitin E3 ligase activity of K5 to target substrate cytoplasmic tail lysine residues. The common MICA *008 allele has a frameshift mutation leading to a premature stop codon and is resistant to down-regulation because of the loss of lysine residues. K5-mediated ubiquitylation signals internalization but not degradation of MICA and causes a potent reduction in NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity. The down-regulation of ligands for both the NKG2D and NKp80 activation pathways provides KSHV with a powerful mechanism for evasion of NK cell antiviral functions.