The vaccinia virus B12 pseudokinase represses viral replication via interaction with the cellular kinase VRK1 and activation of the antiviral effector BAF

Amber B. Rico, Alexandria C. Linville, Annabel T. Olson, Zhigang Wang, Matthew S. Wiebea

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3 Scopus citations


The poxviral B1 and B12 proteins are a homologous kinase-pseudokinase pair, which modulates a shared host pathway governing viral DNA replication and antiviral defense. While the molecular mechanisms involved are incompletely understood, B1 and B12 seem to intersect with signaling processes mediated by their cellular homologs termed the vaccinia-related kinases (VRKs). In this study, we expand upon our previous characterization of the B1-B12 signaling axis to gain insights into B12 function. We begin our studies by demonstrating that modulation of B12 repressive activity is a conserved function of B1 orthologs from divergent poxviruses. Next, we characterize the protein interactome of B12 using multiple cell lines and expression systems and discover that the cellular kinase VRK1 is a highly enriched B12 interactor. Using complementary VRK1 knockdown and overexpression assays, we first demonstrate that VRK1 is required for the rescue of a B1-deleted virus upon mutation of B12. Second, we find that VRK1 overexpression is sufficient to overcome repressive B12 activity during B1-deleted virus replication. Interestingly, we also evince that B12 interferes with the ability of VRK1 to phosphoinactivate the host defense protein BAF. Thus, B12 restricts vaccinia virus DNA accumulation in part by repressing the ability of VRK1 to inactivate BAF. Finally, these data establish that a B12-VRK1-BAF signaling axis forms during vaccinia virus infection and is modulated via kinases B1 and/or VRK2. These studies provide novel insights into the complex mechanisms that poxviruses use to hijack homologous cellular signaling pathways during infection. IMPORTANCE Viruses from diverse families encode both positive and negative regulators of viral replication. While their functions can sometimes be enigmatic, investigation of virus-encoded, negative regulators of viral replication has revealed fascinating aspects of virology. Studies of poxvirus-encoded genes have largely concentrated on positive regulators of their replication; however, examples of fitness gains attributed to poxvirus gene loss suggests that negative regulators of poxvirus replication also impact infection dynamics. This study focuses on the vaccinia B12 pseudokinase, a protein capable of inhibiting vaccinia DNA replication. Here, we elucidate the mechanisms by which B12 inhibits vaccinia DNA replication, demonstrating that B12 activates the antiviral protein BAF by inhibiting the activity of VRK1, a cellular modulator of BAF. Combined with previous data, these studies provide evidence that poxviruses govern their replication by employing both positive and negative regulators of viral replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02114
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • B1
  • BAF
  • Poxvirus
  • Protein kinases
  • VRK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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