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A nuclear export signal in KHNYN required for its antiviral activity evolved as ZAP emerged in tetrapods

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posted on 2023-02-02, 11:10 authored by Maria J Lista, Mattia Ficarelli, Harry Wilson, Dorota Kmiec, Rebecca L Youle, Joseph Wanford, Helena Winstone, Charlotte Odendall, Ian A Taylor, Stuart JD Neil, Chad M Swanson
The zinc finger antiviral protein (ZAP) inhibits viral replication by directly binding CpG dinucleotides in cytoplasmic viral RNA to inhibit protein synthesis and target the RNA for degradation. ZAP evolved in tetrapods and there are clear orthologs in reptiles, birds, and mammals. When ZAP emerged, other proteins may have evolved to become cofactors for its antiviral activity. KHNYN is a putative endoribonuclease that is required for ZAP to restrict retroviruses. To determine its evolutionary path after ZAP emerged, we compared KHNYN orthologs in mammals and reptiles to those in fish, which do not encode ZAP. This identified residues in KHNYN that are highly conserved in species that encode ZAP, including several in the CUBAN domain. The CUBAN domain interacts with NEDD8 and Cullin-RING E3 ubiquitin ligases. Deletion of the CUBAN domain decreased KHNYN antiviral activity, increased protein expression and increased nuclear localization. However, mutation of residues required for the CUBAN domain- EDD8 interaction increased KHNYN abundance but did not affect its antiviral activity or cytoplasmic localization, indicating that Cullin-mediated degradation may control its homeostasis and regulation of protein turnover is separable from its antiviral activity. By contrast, the C-terminal residues in the CUBAN domain form a CRM1-dependent nuclear export signal (NES) that is required for its antiviral activity. Deletion or mutation of the NES increased KHNYN nuclear localization and decreased its interaction with ZAP. The final 2 positions of this NES are not present in fish KHNYN orthologs and we hypothesize their evolution allowed KHNYN to act as a ZAP cofactor.


Crick (Grant ID: 10178, Grant title: Taylor,I FC001178)


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