Dr Hannah Burgess headshot

Dr Hannah Burgess



University roles and responsibilities

  • Staff-Student Liaison Officer - Level 6 and 7


    Research interests

    Research collaborations



    Hannah M Burgess, Rebecca Grande, Sofia Riccio, Ikshitaa Dinesh, Gerlof Sebastiaan Winkler, Daniel P Depledge, Ian Mohr (2023)CCR4‐NOT differentially controls host versus virus poly(a)‐tail length and regulates HCMV infection, In: EMBO reports

    Abstract Unlike most RNA and DNA viruses that broadly stimulate mRNA decay and interfere with host gene expression, human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) extensively remodels the host translatome without producing an mRNA decay enzyme. By performing a targeted loss‐of‐function screen in primary human fibroblasts, we here identify the host CCR4‐NOT deadenylase complex members CNOT1 and CNOT3 as unexpected pro‐viral host factors that selectively regulate HCMV reproduction. We find that the scaffold subunit CNOT1 is specifically required for late viral gene expression and genome‐wide host responses in CCR4‐NOT‐disrupted cells. By profiling poly(A)‐tail lengths of individual HCMV and host mRNAs using nanopore direct RNA sequencing, we reveal poly(A)‐tails of viral messages to be markedly longer than those of cellular mRNAs and significantly less sensitive to CCR4‐NOT disruption. Our data establish that mRNA deadenylation by host CCR4‐NOT is critical for productive HCMV replication and define a new mechanism whereby herpesvirus infection subverts cellular mRNA metabolism to remodel the gene expression landscape of the infected cell. Moreover, we expose an unanticipated host factor with potential to become a therapeutic anti‐HCMV target. Synopsis image The multi‐subunit cellular deadenylase complex CCR4‐NOT controls poly(A)‐tail length, regulating mRNA decay and translation. HCMV requires CCR4‐NOT activity for productive infection, though its own mRNAs are less susceptible to CCR4‐NOT degradation. HCMV requires CCR4‐NOT complex subunits CNOT1 and CNOT3 for efficient replication and gene expression. Chemical inhibition of a CCR4‐NOT nuclease phenocopies CNOT1/3 knockdown. Specific CCR4‐NOT subunits are upregulated by HCMV infection. HCMV mRNAs have long poly(A)‐tails that are less sensitive to CCR4‐NOT‐disruption than those of cellular mRNAs.

    Letitia Thompson, Daniel P Depledge, Hannah M. Burgess, Ian Mohr (2022)An eIF3d-dependent switch regulates HCMV replication by remodeling the infected cell translation landscape to mimic chronic ER stress, In: Cell Reports39(5)110767

    Regulated loading of eIF3-bound 40S ribosomes on capped mRNA is generally dependent upon the translation initiation factor eIF4E; however, mRNA translation often proceeds during physiological stress, such as virus infection, when eIF4E availability and activity are limiting. It remains poorly understood how translation of virus and host mRNAs are regulated during infection stress. While initially sensitive to mTOR inhibition, which limits eIF4E-dependent translation, we show that protein synthesis in human cytomegalovirus (HCMV)-infected cells unexpectedly becomes progressively reliant upon eIF3d. Targeting eIF3d selectively inhibits HCMV replication, reduces polyribosome abundance, and interferes with expression of essential virus genes and a host gene expression signature indicative of chronic ER stress that fosters HCMV reproduction. This reveals a strategy whereby cellular eIF3d-dependent protein production is hijacked to exploit virus-induced ER stress. Moreover, it establishes how switching between eIF4E and eIF3d-responsive cap-dependent translation can differentially tune virus and host gene expression in infected cells.

    Hannah M. Burgess, Nicola K. Gray (2012)An integrated model for the nucleo-cytoplasmic transport of cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding proteins, In: Communicative and Integrative Biology5(3)pp. 243-247 Taylor & Francis Open Access

    Cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding proteins (PABPs) regulate mRNA stability and translation. Although predominantly localized in the cytoplasm, PABP proteins also cycle through the nucleus. Recent work has established that their steady-state localization can be altered by cellular stresses such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and infection by several viruses, resulting in nuclear accumulation of PABPs. Here, we present further evidence that their interaction with and release from mRNA and translation complexes are important in determining their sub-cellular distribution and propose an integrated model for regulated nucleo-cytoplasmic transport of PABPs.

    Hannah M. Burgess, W.A. Richardson, R.C. Anderson, C. Salaun, S.V. Graham, N.K. Gray (2011)Nuclear relocalisation of cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding proteins PABP1 and PABP4 in response to UV irradiation reveals mRNA-dependent export of metazoan PABPs, In: Journal of Cell Science124(19)

    Poly(A)-binding protein 1 (PABP1) has a fundamental role in the regulation of mRNA translation and stability, both of which are crucial for a wide variety of cellular processes. Although generally a diffuse cytoplasmic protein, it can be found in discrete foci such as stress and neuronal granules. Mammals encode several additional cytoplasmic PABPs that remain poorly characterised, and with the exception of PABP4, appear to be restricted in their expression to a small number of cell types. We have found that PABP4, similarly to PABP1, is a diffusely cytoplasmic protein that can be localised to stress granules. However, UV exposure unexpectedly relocalised both proteins to the nucleus. Nuclear relocalisation of PABPs was accompanied by a reduction in protein synthesis but was not linked to apoptosis. In examining the mechanism of PABP relocalisation, we found that it was related to a change in the distribution of poly(A) RNA within cells. Further investigation revealed that this change in RNA distribution was not affected by PABP knockdown but that perturbations that block mRNA export recapitulate PABP relocalisation. Our results support a model in which nuclear export of PABPs is dependent on ongoing mRNA export, and that a block in this process following UV exposure leads to accumulation of cytoplasmic PABPs in the nucleus. These data also provide mechanistic insight into reports that transcriptional inhibitors and expression of certain viral proteins cause relocation of PABP to the nucleus. © 2011. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.

    B. Gorgoni, W.A. Richardson, Hannah M. Burgess, R.C. Anderson, G.S. Wilkie, P. Gautier, J.P. Sousa Martins, M. Brook, M.D. Sheets, N.K. Gray (2011)Poly(A)-binding proteins are functionally distinct and have essential roles during vertebrate development, In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences108(19)pp. 7844-7849 National Academy of Sciences

    Translational control of many mRNAs in developing metazoan embryos is achieved by alterations in their poly(A) tail length. A family of cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding proteins (PABPs) bind the poly(A) tail and can regulate mRNA translation and stability. However, despite the extensive biochemical characterization of one family member (PABP1), surprisingly little is known about their in vivo roles or functional relatedness. Because no information is available in vertebrates, we address their biological roles, establishing that each of the cytoplasmic PABPs conserved in Xenopus laevis [PABP1, embryonic PABP (ePABP), and PABP4] is essential for normal development. Morpholino-mediated knockdown of PABP1 or ePABP causes both anterior and posterior phenotypes and embryonic lethality. In contrast, depletion of PABP4 results mainly in anterior defects and lethality at later stages. Unexpectedly, cross-rescue experiments reveal that neither ePABP nor PABP4 can fully rescue PABP1 depletion, establishing that PABPs have distinct functions. Comparative analysis of the uncharacterized PABP4 with PABP1 and ePABP shows that it shares a mechanistically conserved core role in promoting global translation. Consistent with this analysis, each morphant displays protein synthesis defects, suggesting that their roles in mRNA-specific translational regulation and/or mRNA decay, rather than global translation, underlie the functional differences between PABPs. Domain-swap experiments reveal that the basis of the functional specificity is complex, involving multiple domains of PABPs, and is conferred, at least in part, by protein - protein interactions.

    Michael Ly, Hannah M. Burgess, S Shah, Ian Mohr, Britt A Glaunsinger (2022)Vaccinia virus D10 has broad decapping activity that is regulated by mRNA splicing, In: PLoS Pathogens18(2)e1010099 PLOS

    The mRNA 5' cap structure serves both to protect transcripts from degradation and promote their translation. Cap removal is thus an integral component of mRNA turnover that is carried out by cellular decapping enzymes, whose activity is tightly regulated and coupled to other stages of the mRNA decay pathway. The poxvirus vaccinia virus (VACV) encodes its own decapping enzymes, D9 and D10, that act on cellular and viral mRNA, but may be regulated differently than their cellular counterparts. Here, we evaluated the targeting potential of these viral enzymes using RNA sequencing from cells infected with wild-type and decapping mutant versions of VACV as well as in uninfected cells expressing D10. We found that D9 and D10 target an overlapping subset of viral transcripts but that D10 plays a dominant role in depleting the vast majority of human transcripts, although not in an indiscriminate manner. Unexpectedly, the splicing architecture of a gene influences how robustly its corresponding transcript is targeted by D10, as transcripts derived from intronless genes are less susceptible to enzymatic decapping by D10. As all VACV genes are intronless, preferential decapping of transcripts from intron-containing genes provides an unanticipated mechanism for the virus to disproportionately deplete host transcripts and remodel the infected cell transcriptome.

    R. Öllinger, A.J. Childs, Hannah M. Burgess, R.M. Speed, P.R. Lundegaard, N. Reynolds, N.K. Gray, H.J. Cooke, I.R. Adams (2008)Deletion of the pluripotency-associated Tex19.1 gene causes activation of endogenous retroviruses and defective spermatogenesis in mice, In: PLoS Genetics4(9)e1000199

    As genetic information is transmitted through successive generations, it passes between pluripotent cells in the early embryo and germ cells in the developing foetus and adult animal. Tex19.1 encodes a protein of unknown function, whose expression is restricted to germ cells and pluripotent cells. During male spermatogenesis, Tex19.1 expression is highest in mitotic spermatogonia and diminishes as these cells differentiate and progress through meiosis. In pluripotent stem cells, Tex19.1 expression is also downregulated upon differentiation. However, it is not clear whether Tex19.1 has an essential function in germ cells or pluripotent stem cells, or what that function might be. To analyse the potential role of Tex19.1 in pluripotency or germ cell function we have generated Tex19.1−/− knockout mice and analysed the Tex19.1−/− mutant phenotype. Adult Tex19.1−/− knockout males exhibit impaired spermatogenesis. Immunostaining and histological analysis revealed defects in meiotic chromosome synapsis, the persistence of DNA double-strand breaks during meiosis, and a loss of post-meiotic germ cells in the testis. Furthermore, expression of a class of endogenous retroviruses is upregulated during meiosis in the Tex19.1−/− testes. Increased transposition of endogenous retroviruses in the germline of Tex19.1−/− mutant mice, and the concomitant increase in DNA damage, may be sufficient to disrupt the normal processes of recombination and chromosome synapsis during meiosis and cause defects in spermatogenesis. Our results suggest that Tex19.1 is part of a specialised mechanism that operates in the germline to repress transposable genetic elements and maintain genomic stability through successive generations.

    C. Salaun, A.I. MacDonald, O. Larralde, L. Howard, K. Lochtie, H.M. Burgess, M. Brook, P. Malik, N.K. Gray, S.V. Graham (2010)Poly(A)-binding protein 1 partially relocalizes to the nucleus during herpes simplex virus type 1 infection in an ICP27-independent manner and does not inhibit virus replication, In: Journal of Virology84(17)pp. 8539-8548 American Society for Microbiology

    Infection of cells by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) triggers host cell shutoff whereby mRNAs are degraded and cellular protein synthesis is diminished. However, virus protein translation continues because the translational apparatus in HSV-infected cells is maintained in an active state. Surprisingly, poly(A)-binding protein 1 (PABP1), a predominantly cytoplasmic protein that is required for efficient translation initiation, is partially relocated to the nucleus during HSV-1 infection. This relocalization occurred in a time-dependent manner with respect to virus infection. Since HSV-1 infection causes cell stress, we examined other cell stress inducers and found that oxidative stress similarly relocated PABP1. An examination of stress-induced kinases revealed similarities in HSV-1 infection and oxidative stress activation of JNK and p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases. Importantly, PABP relocalization in infection was found to be independent of the viral protein ICP27. The depletion of PABP1 by small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown had no significant effect on viral replication or the expression of selected virus late proteins, suggesting that reduced levels of cytoplasmic PABP1 are tolerated during infection.

    Hannah M. Burgess, Elizabeth I. Vink, Ian Mohr (2022)Minding the message: tactics controlling RNA decay, modification, and translation in virus-infected cells, In: Genes and Development(36)pp. 108-132 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press

    With their categorical requirement for host ribosomes to translate mRNA, viruses provide a wealth of genetically tractable models to investigate how gene expression is remodeled post-transcriptionally by infection-triggered biological stress. By co-opting and subverting cellular pathways that control mRNA decay, modification, and translation, the global landscape of post-transcriptional processes is swiftly reshaped by virus-encoded factors. Concurrent host cell-intrinsic countermeasures likewise conscript post-transcriptional strategies to mobilize critical innate immune defenses. Here we review strategies and mechanisms that control mRNA decay, modification, and translation in animal virus-infected cells. Besides settling infection outcomes, post-transcriptional gene regulation in virus-infected cells epitomizes fundamental physiological stress responses in health and disease.

    Hannah M Burgess, Ian Mohr (2016)Evolutionary clash between myxoma virus and rabbit PKR in Australia, In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences113(15)pp. 3912-3914 National Academy of Sciences

    The success of a virus in defeating or evading cell-intrinsic immune responses contributes to its virulence, pathogenesis, and host range. A central tenet of virology holds that virus and host coevolve as each adapts to survive. Rarely, however, do we have the chance to observe this principal at play in the real world. The deliberate and repeated release of myxoma virus (MYXV) to control feral European rabbits introduced into Australia provides one such exceptional opportunity. Myxoma is a member of the poxvirus family, though unlike its more famous cousin variola, the agent of small pox, is unable to infect humans and is instead limited to infection of rabbits and hares. Following the release of a MYXV reference strain into the wild that exhibited 99.8% fatality rates in laboratory rabbits, attenuated strains were recovered from the field that had begun to outcompete the virulent parental strain. In addition, the resistance of rabbits to MYXV increased (1). The underlying molecular mechanism of both rabbit resistance and MYXV attenuation, however, remained elusive. Armed with the recently compiled genome sequence of 21 myxoma field isolates, a new study by Peng et al. in PNAS reveals that genetic alterations to the MYXV M156 protein correlate with both MYXV host specificity and changes in virulence observed in the field (2). Remarkably, more than 50% of MYXV field isolates produce an M156 variant that is no longer able to antagonize the rabbit double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-activated protein kinase PKR, a critical component of IFN-stimulated defenses that controls protein synthesis. This not only provides the first mechanistic explanation for each of these facets of myxoma biology, but also elegantly illustrates the coevolution of host innate defense and viral virulence factors since the first release of MYXV in 1950. In response to virus infection, a key arm of antiviral host defenses acts to cripple the infected cell’s capacity to produce the polypeptides required for virus replication and spread. This is achieved by globally inhibiting the initiation of mRNA translation and is triggered by accumulation of dsRNA, a pathogen-associated molecular pattern produced by many different viruses during their replication cycle. Upon sensing dsRNA, host PKR, which resides in uninfected cells as an inactive, unphosphorylated monomer, becomes activated as a phosphorylated dimer bound to dsRNA (Fig. 1). The ensuing site-specific phosphorylation of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF2 α-subunit prevents methionine-initiator tRNA charging of 40S small ribosome subunits, inhibiting the initiation of protein synthesis and effectively preventing virus replication (3). The extraordinary efforts and diverse molecular tactics many different viruses rely upon to counteract PKR and preserve the activity of the critical initiation factor eIF2 underscore the significant role PKR plays in host defense.

    Tessa J Barrett, Seda Bilaloglu, Macintosh Cornwell, Hannah M. Burgess, Vitor W Virginio, Kamelia Drenkova, Homam Ibrahim, Eugene Yuriditsky, Yin Aphinyanaphongs, Mark Lifshitz, Feng Xia Liang, Julie Alejo, Grace Smith, Stefania Pittaluga, Amy V Rapkiewicz, Jun Wang, Camelia Iancu-Rubin, Ian Mohr, Kelly Ruggles, Kenneth A Stapleford, Judith Hochman, Jeffrey S Berger (2021)Platelets contribute to disease severity in COVID-19, In: Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis19(12)pp. 3139-3153

    Objective Heightened inflammation, dysregulated immunity, and thrombotic events are characteristic of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Given that platelets are key regulators of thrombosis, inflammation, and immunity they represent prime candidates as mediators of COVID-19-associated pathogenesis. The objective of this study was to understand the contribution of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to the platelet phenotype via phenotypic (activation, aggregation) and transcriptomic characterization. Approach and Results In a cohort of 3915 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, we analyzed blood platelet indices collected at hospital admission. Following adjustment for demographics, clinical risk factors, medication, and biomarkers of inflammation and thrombosis, we find platelet count, size, and immaturity are associated with increased critical illness and all-cause mortality. Bone marrow, lung tissue, and blood from COVID-19 patients revealed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virions in megakaryocytes and platelets. Characterization of COVID-19 platelets found them to be hyperreactive (increased aggregation, and expression of P-selectin and CD40) and to have a distinct transcriptomic profile characteristic of prothrombotic large and immature platelets. In vitro mechanistic studies highlight that the interaction of SARS-CoV-2 with megakaryocytes alters the platelet transcriptome, and its effects are distinct from the coronavirus responsible for the common cold (CoV-OC43). Conclusions Platelet count, size, and maturity associate with increased critical illness and all-cause mortality among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Profiling tissues and blood from COVID-19 patients revealed that SARS-CoV-2 virions enter megakaryocytes and platelets and associate with alterations to the platelet transcriptome and activation profile.

    Tessa J Barrett, MacIntosh Cornwell, Khrystyna Myndzar, Christina C Rolling, Yuhe Xia, Kamelia Drenkova, Antoine Biebuyck, Alexander T Fields, Michael Tawil, Elliot Luttrell-Williams, Eugene Yuriditsky, Grace Smith, Paolo Cotzia, Matthew D Neal, Lucy Z Kornblith, Stefania Pittaluga, Amy V Rapkiewicz, Hannah M. Burgess, Ian Mohr, Kenneth A Stapleford, Deepak Voora, Kelly Ruggles, Judith Hochman, Jeffrey S Berger (2021)Platelets amplify endotheliopathy in COVID-19, In: Science Advances7(37)eabh2434

    Given the evidence for a hyperactive platelet phenotype in COVID-19, we investigated effector cell properties of COVID-19 platelets on endothelial cells (ECs). Integration of EC and platelet RNA sequencing revealed that platelet-released factors in COVID-19 promote an inflammatory hypercoagulable endotheliopathy. We identified S100A8 and S100A9 as transcripts enriched in COVID-19 platelets and were induced by megakaryocyte infection with SARS-CoV-2. Consistent with increased gene expression, the heterodimer protein product of S100A8/A9, myeloid-related protein (MRP) 8/14, was released to a greater extent by platelets from COVID-19 patients relative to controls. We demonstrate that platelet-derived MRP8/14 activates ECs, promotes an inflammatory hypercoagulable phenotype, and is a significant contributor to poor clinical outcomes in COVID-19 patients. Last, we present evidence that targeting platelet P2Y12 represents a promising candidate to reduce proinflammatory platelet-endothelial interactions. Together, these findings demonstrate a previously unappreciated role for platelets and their activation-induced endotheliopathy in COVID-19.

    Hannah M. Burgess, Daniel P. Depledge, Letitia Thompson, Kalanghad Puthankalam Srinivas, Rebecca C. Grande, Elizabeth I. Vink, Jonathan S. Abebe, Wesley P. Blackaby, Alan Hendrick, Mark R. Albertella, Tony Kouzarides, Kenneth A. Stapleford, Angus C. Wilson, Ian Mohr (2021)Targeting the m(6)A RNA modification pathway blocks SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-OC43 replication, In: Genes and Development35(13-14)pp. 1005-1019 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press

    N-6-methyladenosine (m(6)A) is an abundant internal RNA modification, influencing transcript fate and function in uninfected and virus-infected cells. Installation of m(6)A by the nuclear RNA methyltransferase METTL3 occurs cotranscriptionally; however, the genomes of some cytoplasmic RNA viruses are also m(6)A-modified. How the cellular m(6)A modification machinery impacts coronavirus replication, which occurs exclusively in the cytoplasm, is unknown. Here we show that replication of SARS-CoV-2, the agent responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, and a seasonal human beta-coronavirus HCoV-OC43, can be suppressed by depletion of METTL3 or cytoplasmic m(6)A reader proteins YTHDF1 and YTHDF3 and by a highly specific small molecule METTL3 inhibitor. Reduction of infectious titer correlates with decreased synthesis of viral RNAs and the essential nucleocapsid (N) protein. Sites of m(6)A modification on genomic and subgenomic RNAs of both viruses were mapped by methylated RNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (meRIP-seq). Levels of host factors involved in m(6)A installation, removal, and recognition were unchanged by HCoV-OC43 infection; however, nuclear localization of METTL3 and cytoplasmic m(6)A readers YTHDF1 and YTHDF2 increased. This establishes that coronavirus RNAs are m(6)A-modified and host m(6)A pathway components control beta-coronavirus replication. Moreover, it illustrates the therapeutic potential of targeting the m(6)A pathway to restrict coronavirus reproduction.

    Hannah M. Burgess, Ian Mohr (2018)Defining the Role of Stress Granules in Innate Immune Suppression by the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Endoribonuclease VHS, In: Journal of Virology92(15) American Society for Microbiology

    In response to virus-induced shutoff host protein synthesis, dynamic aggregates containing mRNA, RNA-binding proteins and translation factors termed stress granules (SGs) often accumulate within the cytoplasm. SGs typically form following phosphorylation and inactivation of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 alpha (eIF2 alpha), a substrate of the double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-activated kinase protein kinase R (PKR). The detection of innate immune sensors and effectors like PKR at SGs suggests a role in pathogen nucleic acid sensing. However, the functional importance of SGs in host innate responses is unclear and has primarily been examined in response to infection with select RNA viruses. During infection with the DNA virus herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), the virus-encoded virion host shutoff (VHS) endoribonuclease is required to restrict interferon production, PKR activation, and SG formation, although the relationship between these activities remains incompletely understood. Here, we show that in cells infected with a VHS-deficient HSV-1 (Delta VHS) dsRNA accumulated and localized to SGs. Surprisingly, formation of dsRNA and its concentration at SGs was not required for beta interferon mRNA induction, indicating that suppression of type I interferon induction by VHS does not stem from its control of dsRNA accumulation. Instead, STING signaling downstream of cGMP-AMP synthase (cGAS)-dependent DNA sensing is required for beta interferon induction. In contrast, significantly less PKR activation is observed when SG assembly is disrupted by ISRIB, an inhibitor of phosphorylated eIF2 alpha-mediated translation repression, or depleting SG scaffolding proteins G3BP1 or TIA1. This demonstrates that PKR activation is intimately linked to SG formation and that SGs form important hubs to potentiate PKR activation during infection. IMPORTANCE: Formation of cytoplasmic stress granules that are enriched for innate immune sensors and effectors is suppressed during many viral infections. It is unclear, however, to what extent this is a side effect of viral efforts to maintain protein synthesis or intentional disruption of a hub for innate immune sensing. In this study, we utilize a herpes simplex virus 1 mutant lacking the RNA nuclease VHS which upon infection induces SGs, PKR activation, and beta interferon to address this question. We show that dsRNA is localized to SGs and that SGs can function to promote PKR activation in the context of a DNA virus infection, but we find no evidence to support their importance for interferon induction during HSV-1 infection.

    Hannah M. Burgess, Aldo Pourchet, Cristina H. Hajdu, Luis Chiriboga, Alan B. Frey, Ian Mohr (2018)Targeting Poxvirus Decapping Enzymes and mRNA Decay to Generate an Effective Oncolytic Virus, In: Molecular Therapy - Oncolytics8pp. 71-81 Elsevier

    Through the action of two virus-encoded decapping enzymes (D9 and D10) that remove protective caps from mRNA 5'-termini, Vaccinia virus (VACV) accelerates mRNA decay and limits activation of host defenses. D9- or D10-deficient VACV are markedly attenuated in mice and fail to counter cellular double-stranded RNA-responsive innate immune effectors, including PKR. Here, we capitalize upon this phenotype and demonstrate that VACV deficient in either decapping enzyme are effective oncolytic viruses. Significantly, D9- or D10-deficient VACV displayed anti-tumor activity against syngeneic mouse tumors of different genetic backgrounds and human hepatocellular carcinoma xenografts. Furthermore, D9- and D10-deficient VACV hyperactivated the host anti-viral enzyme PKR in non-tumorigenic cells compared to wild-type virus. This establishes a new genetic platform for oncolytic VACV development that is deficient for a major pathogenesis determinant while retaining viral genes that support robust productive replication like those required for nucleotide metabolism. It further demonstrates how VACV mutants unable to execute a fundamental step in virus-induced mRNA decay can be unexpectedly translated into a powerful anti-tumor therapy.

    Hannah M. Burgess, Ian Mohr (2015)Cellular 5'-3' mRNA exonuclease Xrn1 controls double-stranded RNA accumulation and anti-viral responses, In: Cell Host & Microbe17(3)pp. 332-344

    By accelerating global mRNA decay, many viruses impair host protein synthesis, limiting host defenses and stimulating virus mRNA translation. Vaccinia virus (VacV) encodes two decapping enzymes (D9, D10) that remove protective 5' caps on mRNAs, presumably generating substrates for degradation by the host exonuclease Xrn1. Surprisingly, we find VacV infection of Xrn1-depleted cells inhibits protein synthesis, compromising virus growth. These effects are aggravated by D9 deficiency and dependent upon a virus transcription factor required for intermediate and late mRNA biogenesis. Considerable double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) accumulation in Xrn1-depleted cells is accompanied by activation of host dsRNA-responsive defenses controlled by PKR and 2'-5' oligoadenylate synthetase (OAS), which respectively inactivate the translation initiation factor eIF2 and stimulate RNA cleavage by RNase L. This proceeds despite VacV-encoded PKR and RNase L antagonists being present. Moreover, Xrn1 depletion sensitizes uninfected cells to dsRNA treatment. Thus, Xrn1 is a cellular factor regulating dsRNA accumulation and dsRNA-responsive innate immune effectors.

    Hannah M. Burgess, Nicola K. Gray (2010)mRNA-specific regulation of translation by poly(A)-binding proteins, In: Biochemical Society Transactions38(6)pp. 1517-1522

    The regulation of translation has emerged as a major determinant of gene expression and is critical for both normal cellular function and the development of disease. Numerous studies have highlighted the diverse, and sometimes related, mechanisms which underlie the regulation of global translation rates and the translational control of specific mRNAs. In the present paper, we discuss the emerging roles of the basal translation factor PABP [poly(A)-binding protein] in mRNA-specific translational control in metazoa which suggest that PABP function is more complex than first recognized.