Viral oncoproteins target the DNA methyltransferases.

Oncogene 26(11):1650 (2007) PMID 16983344 PMCID PMC3350866

Small DNA tumour viruses have evolved a number of mechanisms to drive nondividing cells into S phase. Virally encoded oncoproteins such as adenovirus E1A and human papillomavirus (HPV) E7 can bind an array of cellular proteins to override proliferation arrest. The DNA methyltransferase Dnmt1 is the major mammalian enzyme responsible for maintaining CpG methylation patterns in the cell following replication. One of the hallmarks of tumour cells is disrupted DNA methylation patterns, highlighting the importance of the proper regulation of DNA methyltransferases in normal cell proliferation. Here, we show that adenovirus 5 E1A and HPV-16 E7 associate in vitro and in vivo with the DNA methyltransferase Dnmt1. Consistent with this interaction, we find that E1A and E7 can purify DNA methyltransferase activity from nuclear extracts. These associations are direct and mediated by the extreme N-terminus of E1A and the CR3 zinc-finger domain of E7. Furthermore, we find that a point mutant at leucine 20 of E1A, a residue known to be critical for its transformation functions, is unable to bind Dnmt1 and DNA methyltransferase activity. Finally, both E1A and E7 can stimulate the methyltransferase activity of Dnmt1 in vitro. Our results provide the first indication that viral oncoproteins bind and regulate Dnmt1 enzymatic activity. These observations open up the possibility that this association may be used to control cellular proliferation pathways and suggest a new mechanism by which small DNA tumour viruses can steer cells through the cell cycle.