The US3 Kinase of Herpes Simplex Virus Phosphorylates the RNA Sensor RIG-I To Suppress Innate Immunity

Michiel van Gent, Jessica J. Chiang, Santoshi Muppala, Cindy Chiang, Walid Azab, Lisa Kattenhorn, David M. Knipe, Nikolaus Osterrieder, Michaela U. Gack*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies have demonstrated that the signaling activity of the cytosolic pathogen sensor retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I) is modulated by a variety of posttranslational modifications (PTMs) to fine-tune the antiviral type I interferon (IFN) response. Whereas K63-linked ubiquitination of the RIG-I caspase activation and recruitment domains (CARDs) catalyzed by TRIM25 or other E3 ligases activates RIG-I, phosphorylation of RIG-I at S8 and T170 represses RIG-I signal transduction by preventing the TRIM25-RIG-I interaction and subsequent RIG-I ubiquitination. While strategies to suppress RIG-I signaling by interfering with its K63-polyubiquitin-dependent activation have been identified for several viruses, evasion mechanisms that directly promote RIG-I phosphorylation to escape antiviral immunity are unknown. Here, we show that the serine/threonine (Ser/Thr) kinase US3 of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) binds to RIG-I and phosphorylates RIG-I specifically at S8. US3-mediated phosphorylation suppressed TRIM25-mediated RIG-I ubiquitination, RIG-I-MAVS binding, and type I IFN induction. We constructed a mutant HSV-1 encoding a catalytically-inactive US3 protein (K220A) and found that, in contrast to the parental virus, the US3 mutant HSV-1 was unable to phosphorylate RIG-I at S8 and elicited higher levels of type I IFNs, IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs), and proinflammatory cytokines in a RIG-I-dependent manner. Finally, we show that this RIG-I evasion mechanism is conserved among the alphaherpesvirus US3 kinase family. Collectively, our study reveals a novel immune evasion mechanism of herpesviruses in which their US3 kinases phosphorylate the sensor RIG-I to keep it in the signaling-repressed state. IMPORTANCE Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) establishes lifelong latency in the majority of the human population worldwide. HSV-1 occasionally reactivates to produce infectious virus and to facilitate dissemination. While often remaining subclinical, both primary infection and reactivation occasionally cause debilitating eye diseases, which can lead to blindness, as well as life-threatening encephalitis and newborn infections. To identify new therapeutic targets for HSV-1-induced diseases, it is important to understand the HSV-1-host interactions that may influence infection outcome and disease. Our work uncovered direct phosphorylation of the pathogen sensor RIG-I by alphaherpesvirus-encoded kinases as a novel viral immune escape strategy and also underscores the importance of RNA sensors in surveilling DNA virus infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01510-21
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes

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