Altered cell metabolism is inherently connected with pathological conditions including cancer and viral infections. Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the etiological agent of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). KS tumour cells display features of lymphatic endothelial differentiation and in their vast majority are latently infected with KSHV, while a small number are lytically infected, producing virions. Latently infected cells express only a subset of viral genes, mainly located within the latency-associated region, among them 12 microRNAs. Notably, the metabolic properties of KSHV-infected cells closely resemble the metabolic hallmarks of cancer cells. However, how and why KSHV alters host cell metabolism remains poorly understood. Here, we investigated the effect of KSHV infection on the metabolic profile of primary dermal microvascular lymphatic endothelial cells (LEC) and the functional relevance of this effect. We found that the KSHV microRNAs within the oncogenic cluster collaborate to decrease mitochondria biogenesis and to induce aerobic glycolysis in infected cells. KSHV microRNAs expression decreases oxygen consumption, increase lactate secretion and glucose uptake, stabilize HIF1α and decreases mitochondria copy number. Importantly this metabolic shift is important for latency maintenance and provides a growth advantage. Mechanistically we show that KSHV alters host cell energy metabolism through microRNA-mediated down regulation of EGLN2 and HSPA9. Our data suggest that the KSHV microRNAs induce a metabolic transformation by concurrent regulation of two independent pathways; transcriptional reprograming via HIF1 activation and reduction of mitochondria biogenesis through down regulation of the mitochondrial import machinery. These findings implicate viral microRNAs in the regulation of the cellular metabolism and highlight new potential avenues to inhibit viral latency.
Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is the most common cancer in HIV-infected untreated individuals. Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the infectious cause of this neoplasm. The discovery of KSHV and its oncogenic enigmas has enlightened many fields of tumor biology and viral oncogenesis. The metabolic properties of KS significantly differ from those of normal cells and resemble cancer cells in general, but the mechanisms employed by KSHV to alter host cell metabolism are poorly understood. Our work demonstrates that KSHV microRNAs can alter cell metabolism through coherent control of independent pathways, a key feature of microRNA-mediated control of cellular functions. This provides a fresh perspective for how microRNA-encoding pathogens shape a cell's metabolism to create an optimal environment for their survival and/or replication. Indeed, we show that, in the case of KSHV, viral microRNA-driven regulation of metabolism is important for viral latency. These findings will evoke new and exciting approaches to prevent KSHV from establishing latency and later on KS.