Herpesvirus saimiri (HVS) is an oncogenic, lymphotropic, gamma-herpesvirus that transforms human and simian T cells in vitro and causes lymphomas and leukemias in various species of New World primates. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the HVS genome revealed an open reading frame with 22% amino acid identity to the mouse mammary tumor virus 7 superantigen. In this study, we demonstrate that this open reading frame, HVS14, encodes a heavily glycosylated protein that is secreted. Both the HVS14 present in the supernatant of transfected cells and a chimeric HVS14.Fc fusion protein were found to bind to heterodimeric MHC class II HLA-DR molecules. The supernatant from HVS14-transfected cells induced the proliferation of human PBMC, which could be specifically inhibited by HVS14-specific mAbs. Purified peripheral blood T cells were induced to proliferate in the presence of accessory cells and HVS14-containing supernatant. Whereas the HVS14 protein stimulated T cell proliferation, the HVS14.Fc fusion protein blocked proliferative responses to soluble Ags in vitro. Collectively, these data indicate that HVS14 can function as an immunomodulator that may contribute to the immunopathology of HVS infection.

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