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N-terminal tail of a viral histone H4 encoded in Cotesia plutellae bracovirus is essential to suppress gene expression of host histone H4


Yonggyun Kim, Rm # 511, Science II Building, Department of Bioresource Sciences, Andong National University, Andong 760-749, Korea. Tel.: +82 54 820 5638; fax: +82 54 820 6320; e-mail:


An endoparasitoid wasp, Cotesia plutellae, possesses a symbiotic bracovirus (CpBV), which facilitates parasitism of a specific host, such as larvae of the diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella. A viral histone H4 (CpBV-H4) has been found in the CpBV genome and its gene product plays a role in impairing the host insect cellular immune response. Based on its high similarity to histone H4 of P. xylostella apart from its extended N-terminal tail, it has been suspected to alter host gene expression. Histone subunits were purified from parasitized P. xylostella larvae and found to contain both host and viral H4s, confirming a previous report of a possible epigenetic mode of action. Moreover, this study showed that the host H4 levels in the parasitized larvae clearly decreased during the parasitization period, whereas CpBV-H4 levels maintained a significant level without significant changes. To understand the decrease of host H4 levels, transcription levels of host H4 were monitored by quantitative reverse-transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) and showed a significant decrease in parasitized P. xylostella larvae, whereas no significant change of the mRNA level was detected in nonparasitized larvae. This transcriptional control of host H4 expression was also observed by inducing transient expression of CpBV-H4 in nonparasitized P. xylostella. Moreover, co-injection of CpBV-H4 and its specific double-stranded RNA recovered the host H4 expression level. To identify a functional domain of CpBV-H4 involved in the transcriptional control, the extended N-terminal tail of CpBV-H4 was removed by preparing a truncated viral H4 construct in an expression vector by deleting the N-terminal tail of 38 amino acid residues and inducing its expression in nonparasitized P. xylostella larvae. The truncated CpBV-H4 clearly lost its inhibitory effects on host H4 transcription. Moreover, the presence of CpBV-H4 affects the spreading of host haemocytes by an epigenetic effect, which is at least partly restored in larvae expressing the truncated version of CpBV-H4. This study suggests that the viral H4 encoded in CpBV can alter host gene expression with its extended N-terminal tail.

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