Mullins Molecular Retrovirology Lab

  • Department of Microbiology
  • School of Medicine
  • University of Washington
University of Washington/Fred Hutch Center for AIDS Research

Citation Information

Jan Clement Santiago, Scott V Adams, Andrea Towlerton, Fred Okuku, Warren Phipps, James I Mullins (2022).Genomic changes in Kaposi Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus and their clinical correlates. PLoS Pathog. 2022 Nov 28.(pubmed) (doi)


Kaposi sarcoma (KS), a common HIV-associated malignancy, presents a range of clinicopathological features. Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is its etiologic agent, but the contribution of viral genomic variation to KS development is poorly understood. To identify potentially influential viral polymorphisms, we characterized KSHV genetic variation in 67 tumors from 1-4 distinct sites from 29 adults with advanced KS in Kampala, Uganda. Whole KSHV genomes were sequenced from 20 tumors with the highest viral load, whereas only polymorphic genes were screened by PCR and sequenced from 47 other tumors. Nine individuals harbored >1 tumors with a median 6-fold over-coverage of a region centering on K5 and K6 genes. K8.1 gene was inactivated in 8 individuals, while 5 had mutations in the miR-K10 microRNA coding sequence. Recurring inter-host polymorphisms were detected in K4.2 and K11.2. The K5-K6 region rearrangement breakpoints and K8.1 mutations were all unique, indicating that they arise frequently de novo. Rearrangement breakpoints were associated with potential G-quadruplex and Z-DNA forming sequences. Exploratory evaluations of viral mutations with clinical and tumor traits were conducted by logistic regression without multiple test corrections. K5-K6 over-coverage and K8.1 inactivation were tentatively correlated (p <0.001 and p = 0.005, respectively) with nodular rather than macular tumors, and with individuals that had lesions in <4 anatomic areas (both p <= 0.01). Additionally, a trend was noted for miR-K10 point mutations and lower survival rates (HR = 4.11, p = 0.053). Two instances were found of distinct tumors within an individual sharing the same viral mutation, suggesting metastases or transmission of the aberrant viruses within the host. To summarize, KSHV genomes in tumors frequently have over-representation of the K5-K6 region, as well as K8.1 and miR-K10 mutations, and each might be associated with clinical phenotypes. Studying their possible effects may be useful for understanding KS tumorigenesis and disease progression.