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Vaccinia virus subverts xenophagy through phosphorylation and nuclear targeting of p62

Melanie Krause, Jerzy Samolej, Artur Yakimovich, Janos Kriston-Vizi, Moona Huttunen, Samuel Lara-Reyna, Eva-Maria Frickel, and Jason Mercer.

Autophagy is an essential degradation program required for cell homeostasis. Among its functions is the engulfment and destruction of cytosolic pathogens, termed xenophagy. Not surprisingly, many pathogens use various strategies to circumvent or co-opt autophagic degradation. For poxviruses, it is known that infection activates autophagy, which however is not required for successful replication. Even though these complex viruses replicate exclusively in the cytoplasm, autophagy-mediated control of poxvirus infection has not been extensively explored. Using the prototypic poxvirus, vaccinia virus (VACV), we show that overexpression of the xenophagy receptors p62, NDP52, and Tax1Bp1 restricts poxvirus infection. While NDP52 and Tax1Bp1 were degraded, p62 initially targeted cytoplasmic virions before being shunted to the nucleus. Nuclear translocation of p62 was dependent upon p62 NLS2 and correlated with VACV kinase mediated phosphorylation of p62 T269/S272. This suggests that VACV targets p62 during the early stages of infection to avoid destruction and further implies that poxviruses exhibit multi-layered control of autophagy to facilitate cytoplasmic replication.

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