Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV or HHV-8) infection of endothelial cells is an early event in the aetiology of the endothelial cell tumour Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). We have examined the effect of the KSHV latent protein viral FLICE-like inhibitory protein (vFLIP) on dermal microvascular endothelial cell (MVEC) survival as vFLIP is expressed in the KSHV-infected cells within KS lesions. To do this, we have used a lentiviral vector to express vFLIP in MVECs in the absence of other KSHV proteins. vFLIP activates the classical NF-κB pathway in MVECs and causes nuclear translocation of RelA/p65. This NF-κB activation prevents detachment-induced apoptosis (anoikis) of MVECs but does not inhibit apoptosis induced by removal of essential survival factors, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). vFLIP expression inhibits anoikis in part by inducing the secretion of an additional paracrine survival factor(s). The implications of these results for KS development are discussed.
When expressed in heterologous cells, the viral FLIP protein (vFLIP) of Kaposi's-sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) has been reported both to block Fas-mediated apoptosis and to activate the NF-κB activation pathway by interaction with IκB kinase (IKK). In a yeast-two-hybrid screen, we identified IKKγ as an interacting partner of vFLIP. We expressed fragments of IKKγ in mammalian cells and bacteria, and identified the central CCR3/4 (amino acids 150-272) as the vFLIP binding region. To investigate the proteins interacting with vFLIP in a KSHV-infected primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) cell line, we immunoprecipitated vFLIP and identified four associated proteins by mass spectrometry: IKK components IKKα, β and γ, and the chaperone, Hsp90. Using gel filtration chromatography, we demonstrated that a single population of vFLIP in the cytoplasm of PEL cells co-eluted and co-precipitated with an activated IKK complex. An inhibitor of Hsp90, geldanamycin, inhibited IKK's kinase activity induced by vFLIP and killed PEL cells, suggesting that vFLIP activation of IKK contributes to PEL cell survival.