Intracellular signaling mechanisms and activities of human herpesvirus 8 interleukin-6

Daming Chen, Gordon Sandford, John Nicholas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8)-encoded viral interleukin-6 (vIL-6) has been implicated as a key factor in virus-associated neoplasia because of its proproliferative and survival effects and also in view of its angiogenic properties. A major difference between vIL-6 and human IL-6 (hIL-6) is that vIL-6, uniquely, is largely retained and can signal intracellularly. While vIL-6 is generally considered to be a lytic gene, several reports have noted its low-level expression in latently infected primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) cultures, in the absence of other lytic gene expression. Thus, intracellular autocrine signal transduction by the viral cytokine may be of particular relevance to the growth and survival of latently infected cells and to pathogenesis. Here we report that most intracellular vIL-6 is located in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), signals via the gp130 signal transducer in this compartment, and does so independently of the gp80 α-subunit of the IL-6 receptor, required for hIL-6 signal transduction. Signaling and biological assays incorporating ER-retained vIL-6 and hIL-6 confirmed vIL-6 activity, specifically, in this compartment. Knockdown of vIL-6 expression in PEL cells led to markedly reduced cell growth in normal culture, independently of extracellular cytokines. This could be reversed by reintroduction via virus vector of exclusively ER-retained vIL-6. These data indicate that in virus biology vIL-6 may act to support the growth and survival of cells latently infected with HHV-8 in an autocrine manner via intracrine signaling and that these activities may contribute to the maintenance of latently infected cells and to virus-induced neoplasia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-733
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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