Liver X Receptor-Inducible Host E3 Ligase IDOL Targets a Human Cytomegalovirus Reactivation Determinant

Luwanika Mlera, Donna Collins-McMillen, Sebastian Zeltzer, Jason C. Buehler, Melissa Moy, Kristen Zarrella, Katie Caviness, Louis Cicchini, David J. Tafoya, Felicia Goodrum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Liver X receptor (LXR) signaling broadly restricts virus replication; however, the mechanisms of restriction are poorly defined. Here, we demonstrate that the cellular E3 ligase LXR-inducible degrader of low-density lipoprotein receptor (IDOL) targets the human cytomegalovirus (HMCV) UL136p33 protein for turnover. UL136 encodes multiple proteins that differentially impact latency and reactivation. UL136p33 is a determinant of reactivation. UL136p33 is targeted for rapid turnover by the proteasome, and its stabilization by mutation of lysine residues to arginine results in a failure to quiet replication for latency. We show that IDOL targets UL136p33 for turnover but not the stabilized variant. IDOL is highly expressed in undifferentiated hematopoietic cells where HCMV establishes latency but is sharply downregulated upon differentiation, a stimulus for reactivation. We hypothesize that IDOL maintains low levels of UL136p33 for the establishment of latency. Consistent with this hypothesis, knockdown of IDOL impacts viral gene expression in wild-type (WT) HCMV infection but not in infection where UL136p33 has been stabilized. Furthermore, the induction of LXR signaling restricts WT HCMV reactivation from latency but does not affect the replication of a recombinant virus expressing a stabilized variant of UL136p33. This work establishes the UL136p33-IDOL interaction as a key regulator of the bistable switch between latency and reactivation. It further suggests a model whereby a key viral determinant of HCMV reactivation is regulated by a host E3 ligase and acts as a sensor at the tipping point between the decision to maintain the latent state or exit latency for reactivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • IDOL
  • LXR
  • UL136
  • cholesterol
  • cytomegalovirus
  • herpesvirus
  • liver X receptor signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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