Kaposi's sarcoma- and B cell lymphoma-associated human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) specifies particular proteins that are believed to contribute to angioproliferative and malignant pathogenesis. Key among these is the interleukin-6 homologue, vIL-6, which via its signal transducing properties promotes angiogenesis, cell proliferation and cell survival. The expression of vIL-6 is maximal during lytic, productive replication, but we have demonstrated that it is also expressed as a bona fide latent protein in primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) cells, and, coupled with its predominant ER localization, acts in an autocrine manner to support PEL growth and survival. These activities of vIL-6 are mediated not only through gp130 receptor-mediated signal transduction but also via interactions of vIL-6 with the previously uncharacterized ER membrane protein vitamin K epoxide reductase complex subunit 1 variant-2 (VKORC1v2). One effect of vIL-6 interaction with VKORC1v2 is suppression of lysosomally-localized pro-apoptotic cathepsin D (CatD) through co-interaction-mediated ER retention and degradation of ER-transiting pro-CatD. In addition, we have identified pro-replication activities of vIL-6 in PEL and endothelial cells, functions mediated through vIL-6/gp130 signaling and via vIL-6-VKORC1v2 interaction-dependent mechanisms including CatD suppression. However, the full repertoire of ER-localized vIL-6 interactions and associated activities has yet to be uncovered and appreciated. Preliminary data from co-precipitation/mass spectrometry and co-precipitation/immunoblot analyses have identified new interactions of vIL-6 and VKORC1v2 with key components of ER-associated (protein) folding (ERAF) and degradation (ERAD) pathways in addition to proteins involved in post-ER trafficking and lysosomal functions. ER stress-initiated unfolded protein response (UPR) is, in part, regulated by ERAF and ERAD and its restriction is critical for successful virus productive replication, and possibly latency as well. We hypothesize that ER-localized vIL-6 functions of relevance to HHV-8 biology include regulation of ERAF and ERAD in addition to lysosome- associated activities. This application focuses on determining the functional significance of newly-identified interaction partners of vIL-6 and vIL-6-targeted VKORC1v2 to identify novel ER-localized functions of vIL- 6/VKORC1v2 in virus biology. The project comprises: (1) physical analyses of vIL-6/VKORC1v2 interactions with ER quality control (ERAF and ERAD) and ER-transiting lysosomal and other proteins; (2) functional analyses of these vIL-6/VKORC1v2 interactions; (3) identification of the roles of the characterized interactions and activities in addition to vIL-6/gp130 signaling in HHV-8 infection and latent and lytic biology. We believe that the proposed work represents a novel and important area of research that will provide scientific impact through identification of entirely new functions of a viral cytokine and could also be of value for future development of anti-viral and therapeutic strategies.

Public Health Relevance

Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) is linked etiologically with endothelial and B cell malignancies and encodes a cytokine homologue, referred to as viral interleukin-6 (vIL-6), which is believed to contribute to disease development, but its role in viru biology is poorly understood. Our own data have revealed that vIL-6 is essential for growth and survival of cells latently infected with HHV-8 and also for efficient virus productive replication. The goal of the proposed research is to characterize the major mechanisms by which vIL-6 functions in these processes, research that will have direct relevance to the development of novel anti-viral strategies and could lead to effective prevention and treatment of HHV-8-associated diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Read-Connole, Elizabeth Lee
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Johns Hopkins University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Chen, Daming; Xiang, Qiwang; Nicholas, John (2017) Human Herpesvirus 8 Interleukin-6 Interacts with Calnexin Cycle Components and Promotes Protein Folding. J Virol 91:
Chen, Daming; Nicholas, John (2015) Promotion of Endoplasmic Reticulum-Associated Degradation of Procathepsin D by Human Herpesvirus 8-Encoded Viral Interleukin-6. J Virol 89:7979-90
Cousins, Emily; Gao, Yang; Sandford, Gordon et al. (2014) Human herpesvirus 8 viral interleukin-6 signaling through gp130 promotes virus replication in primary effusion lymphoma and endothelial cells. J Virol 88:12167-72
Cousins, Emily; Nicholas, John (2014) Molecular biology of human herpesvirus 8: novel functions and virus-host interactions implicated in viral pathogenesis and replication. Recent Results Cancer Res 193:227-68
Chen, Daming; Gao, Yang; Nicholas, John (2014) Human herpesvirus 8 interleukin-6 contributes to primary effusion lymphoma cell viability via suppression of proapoptotic cathepsin D, a cointeraction partner of vitamin K epoxide reductase complex subunit 1 variant 2. J Virol 88:1025-38
Cousins, Emily; Nicholas, John (2013) Role of human herpesvirus 8 interleukin-6-activated gp130 signal transducer in primary effusion lymphoma cell growth and viability. J Virol 87:10816-27
Chen, Daming; Cousins, Emily; Sandford, Gordon et al. (2012) Human herpesvirus 8 viral interleukin-6 interacts with splice variant 2 of vitamin K epoxide reductase complex subunit 1. J Virol 86:1577-88
Nicholas, John (2010) Human herpesvirus 8-encoded cytokines. Future Virol 5:197-206
Chen, Daming; Sandford, Gordon; Nicholas, John (2009) Intracellular signaling mechanisms and activities of human herpesvirus 8 interleukin-6. J Virol 83:722-33
Chen, Daming; Choi, Young Bong; Sandford, Gordon et al. (2009) Determinants of secretion and intracellular localization of human herpesvirus 8 interleukin-6. J Virol 83:6874-82

Showing the most recent 10 out of 14 publications