Productive herpesvirus infection requires a profound, time-controlled remodeling of the viral transcriptome and proteome. To gain insights into the genomic architecture and gene expression control in Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), we performed a systematic genome-wide survey of viral transcriptional and translational activity throughout the lytic cycle. Using mRNA-sequencing and ribosome profiling, we found that transcripts encoding lytic genes are promptly bound by ribosomes upon lytic reactivation, suggesting their regulation is mainly transcriptional. Our approach also uncovered new genomic features such as ribosome occupancy of viral non-coding RNAs, numerous upstream and small open reading frames (ORFs), and unusual strategies to expand the virus coding repertoire that include alternative splicing, dynamic viral mRNA editing, and the use of alternative translation initiation codons. Furthermore, we provide a refined and expanded annotation of transcription start sites, polyadenylation sites, splice junctions, and initiation/termination codons of known and new viral features in the KSHV genomic space which we have termed KSHV 2.0. Our results represent a comprehensive genome-scale image of gene regulation during lytic KSHV infection that substantially expands our understanding of the genomic architecture and coding capacity of the virus.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a cancer-causing agent in immunocompromised patients that establishes long-lasting infections in its hosts. Initially described in 1994 and extensively studied ever since, KSHV molecular biology is understood in broad outline, but many detailed questions are still to be resolved. After almost two decades, specific aspects pertaining to the organization of the KSHV genome as well as the fate of the viral transcripts during the productive stages of infection remain unexplored. Here we use a systematic genome-wide approach to investigate changes in gene and protein expression during the productive stage of infection known as the lytic cycle. We found that the viral genome has a large coding capacity, capable of generating at least 45% more products than initially anticipated by bioinformatic analyses alone, and that it uses multiple strategies to expand its coding capacity well beyond what is determined solely by the DNA sequence of its genome. We also provide an expanded and highly detailed annotation of known and new genomic features in KSHV. We have termed this new architectural and functional annotation KSHV 2.0. Our results indicate that viral genomes are more complex than anticipated, and that they are subject to tight mechanisms of regulation to ensure correct gene expression.