The Immune-Specific E3 Ubiquitin Ligase MARCH1 Is Upregulated during Human Cytomegalovirus Infection to Regulate Iron Levels

Madison Martin, Praneet Sandhu, Rinki Kumar, Nicholas J. Buchkovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) modulates numerous cellular pathways to facilitate infection. Iron is essential to many cellular processes and is often incorporated into proteins and enzymes involved in oxidative phosphorylation and DNA synthesis and repair, among others. Despite its prominent role in the cell, little is known about the regulation of iron metabolism during HCMV infection. Herein, we observe modulation of the transferrin receptor (TfR) during infection and a corresponding change in the cellular labile iron pool. TfR and the iron pool are increased early during infection and then return to mock levels at the late stages of infection. We identified the cellular ubiquitin ligase MARCH1 as an important regulator of TfR. MARCH1 plays a proviral role during infection, as its knockdown leads to a decrease in infectious titers. Knockdown of MARCH1 also leads to an increase in ROS, lipid peroxidation, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Inhibiting an early increase in TfR expression during infection also decreases virus production. These findings indicate the importance of tightly regulating iron metabolism during HCMV infection to facilitate efficient virus production. IMPORTANCE Iron is essential for cells, playing important roles in energy generation, DNA replication, and gene expression. During infection, HCMV alters many cellular processes to aid its replication. We found that iron levels are tightly regulated during infection and that dysregulation of iron levels alters the ability to produce infectious virions. We also found that HCMV inactivates many of the cellular safeguards put in place to deal with excess iron. Thus, infected cells become more susceptible to variations in iron levels, which could be exploited as a therapeutic strategy for dealing with HCMV infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01806-21
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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