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Engel P.,University of Barcelona | Engel P.,Biomedical Research Institute Sant Pau | Perez-Carmona N.,Biomedical Research Institute Sant Pau | Alba M.M.,Fundacio Institute Municipal dInvestigacio Medica | And 5 more authors.
Immunology and Cell Biology | Year: 2011

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), the β-herpesvirus prototype, has evolved a wide spectrum of mechanisms to counteract host immunity. Among them, HCMV uses cellular captured genes encoding molecules capable of interfering with the original host function or of fulfilling new immunomodulatory tasks. Here, we report on UL7, a novel HCMV heavily glycosylated transmembrane protein, containing an Ig-like domain that exhibits remarkable amino acid similarity to CD229, a cell-surface molecule of the signalling lymphocyte-activation molecule (SLAM) family involved in leukocyte activation. The UL7 Ig-like domain, which is well-preserved in all HCMV strains, structurally resembles the SLAM-family N-terminal Ig-variable domain responsible for the homophilic and heterophilic interactions that trigger signalling. UL7 is transcribed with early-late kinetics during the lytic infectious cycle. Using a mAb generated against the viral protein, we show that it is constitutively shed, through its mucine-like stalk, from the cell-surface. Production of soluble UL7 is enhanced by PMA and reduced by a broad-spectrum metalloproteinase inhibitor. Although UL7 does not hold the ability to interact with CD229 or other SLAM-family members, it shares with them the capacity to mediate adhesion to leukocytes, specifically to monocyte-derived DCs. Furthermore, we demonstrate that UL7 expression attenuates the production of proinflammatory cytokines TNF, IL-8 and IL-6 in DCs and myeloid cell lines. Thus, the ability of UL7 to interfere with cellular proinflammatory responses may contribute to viral persistence. These results enhance our understanding of those HCMV-encoded molecules involved in sustaining the balance between HCMV and the host immune system. © 2011 Australasian Society for Immunology Inc. All rights reserved.

Toll-Riera M.,Fundacio Institute Municipal dInvestigacio Medica | Toll-Riera M.,University Pompeu Fabra | Laurie S.,Fundacio Institute Municipal dInvestigacio Medica | Alba M.M.,Fundacio Institute Municipal dInvestigacio Medica | And 2 more authors.
Molecular Biology and Evolution | Year: 2011

The molecular clock hypothesis states that protein-coding genes evolve at an approximately constant rate. However, this is only expected to be true as long as the function and the tertiary structure of the molecule remain unaltered. An important implication of this statement is that significant deviations in the rate of evolution of a gene with respect to the species clock are likely to reflect functional and/or structural alterations. Here, we present a method to identify such deviations and apply it to a data set of 2,929 high-quality coding sequence alignments corresponding to one-to-one orthologous genes from six mammalian species - human, macaque, mouse, rat, cow, and dog. Deviated branches are defined as those that present significant alterations in both the rate of nonsynonymous substitutions (dN) and the selective pressure (dN/dS). Strikingly, we find that as many as 24.5% of the genes show branch-specific deviations in dN and dN/dS, though this is a relatively well-conserved set of genes. Around half of these genes show branch-specific acceleration of evolutionary rates. Positive selection (PS) tests based on divergence data only identify 17.7% of the accelerated branches. Failure to identify PS in accelerated branches with an excess of radical amino acid replacements suggests that these tests are conservative. Interestingly, genes with accelerated branches are significantly enriched in neural proteins, indicating that this type of protein might play a more important role than previously thought in species diversification, although they are generally not detected by PS tests. We discuss in detail several examples of genes that show lineage-specific evolutionary rate acceleration and are involved in synaptic transmission, chemosensory perception, and ubiquitination. © 2010 The Author.

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