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Gene Review

UL12  -  deoxyribonuclease

Human herpesvirus 1

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Disease relevance of UL12

  • To elucidate the role of US11 in the virus life cycle, we infected cells with wild-type virus, a cosmid-reconstructed US11 HSV-1 null mutant, and a cosmid-reconstructed wild-type virus and analyzed expression of UL12, -13, and -14 during a time course of infection [1].
  • UL12 is a 5'- to 3'-exonuclease encoded by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) which degrades single- and double-stranded DNA [2].
  • The alkaline exonuclease (AE) encoded by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) UL12 open reading frame was inducibly expressed in Escherichia coli and purified without the use of chromatographic separation [3].
  • Inactivation of the UL12 gene results in reductions in viral DNA synthesis, DNA packaging, egress of DNA-containing capsids from the nucleus and ability of progeny virions to initiate new cycles of infection [4].
  • We constructed two point mutations in a highly conserved region (motif II) of UL12 and purified wild-type and mutant enzymes from a baculovirus expression system [5].

High impact information on UL12


Chemical compound and disease context of UL12

  • Sucrose sedimentation analysis of capsids from cells infected with wild-type or mutant viruses indicates that both UL12 and UL12.5 are found in fractions from across the sucrose gradient which do not always correlate with the presence of viral capsids [8].

Biological context of UL12

  • Although the precise in vivo role of UL12 has not yet been determined, several in vitro activities have been identified for the protein, including endo- and exonuclease activities, interaction with the HSV-1 single-stranded DNA binding protein ICP8, and an ability to promote strand exchange in conjunction with ICP8 [9].
  • While the wild-type plasmid complements the growth of the null mutant, neither UL12 mutant can do so [5].
  • We showed previously that the UL12.5 gene product cannot compensate for the absence of the full-length UL12 gene product (R. Martinez, L. Shao, J. C. Bronstein, P. C. Weber, and S. K. Weller, 1996, Virology 215, 152-164); however, it was not known whether UL12.5 itself performs an essential function during lytic viral growth [8].
  • In this study, amplicons (bacterial plasmids containing functional copies of a virus replication origin and packaging signal) were used to analyse further the defects of the UL12 null mutant ambUL12 [4].
  • In this report, we address the question of whether the AN-1 growth phenotype is due to the loss of UL12 catalytic activity [5].

Anatomical context of UL12


Associations of UL12 with chemical compounds

  • UL12.5 and UL12 have the same translational stop codon, but the former utilizes an internal methionine codon of the latter gene to initiate translation of a 60-kDa amino-terminal truncated form of AN [7].

Other interactions of UL12

  • Using complementing cells, we constructed HSV-1 mutants carrying nonsense mutations in an essential gene, UL8, encoding a protein essential for viral DNA replication (ambUL8) or in a partially dispensable gene, UL12, encoding alkaline nuclease (ambUL12) [12].

Analytical, diagnostic and therapeutic context of UL12

  • Western immunoblotting showed that the virus ambUL12 produced full-length UL12 protein in SupD12 cells which yielded a level of 25.9% of the alkaline nuclease activity of the wt HSV-1 control [12].


  1. The herpes simplex virus type 1 US11 protein binds the coterminal UL12, UL13, and UL14 RNAs and regulates UL13 expression in vivo. Attrill, H.L., Cumming, S.A., Clements, J.B., Graham, S.V. J. Virol. (2002) [Pubmed]
  2. Herpes simplex virus type 1 single-strand DNA binding protein ICP8 enhances the nuclease activity of the UL12 alkaline nuclease by increasing its processivity. Reuven, N.B., Weller, S.K. J. Virol. (2005) [Pubmed]
  3. Purification and characterization of herpes simplex virus type 1 alkaline exonuclease expressed in Escherichia coli. Bronstein, J.C., Weber, P.C. J. Virol. (1996) [Pubmed]
  4. Replication, recombination and packaging of amplicon DNA in cells infected with the herpes simplex virus type 1 alkaline nuclease null mutant ambUL12. Porter, I.M., Stow, N.D. J. Gen. Virol. (2004) [Pubmed]
  5. The exonuclease activity of HSV-1 UL12 is required for in vivo function. Goldstein, J.N., Weller, S.K. Virology (1998) [Pubmed]
  6. In vitro processing of herpes simplex virus type 1 DNA replication intermediates by the viral alkaline nuclease, UL12. Goldstein, J.N., Weller, S.K. J. Virol. (1998) [Pubmed]
  7. The product of the UL12.5 gene of herpes simplex virus type 1 is a capsid-associated nuclease. Bronstein, J.C., Weller, S.K., Weber, P.C. J. Virol. (1997) [Pubmed]
  8. The product of the UL12.5 gene of herpes simplex virus type 1 is not essential for lytic viral growth and is not specifically associated with capsids. Martinez, R., Goldstein, J.N., Weller, S.K. Virology (2002) [Pubmed]
  9. The UL12.5 gene product of herpes simplex virus type 1 exhibits nuclease and strand exchange activities but does not localize to the nucleus. Reuven, N.B., Antoku, S., Weller, S.K. J. Virol. (2004) [Pubmed]
  10. Structure-function analysis of the herpes simplex virus type 1 UL12 gene: correlation of deoxyribonuclease activity in vitro with replication function. Henderson, J.O., Ball-Goodrich, L.J., Parris, D.S. Virology (1998) [Pubmed]
  11. Expression analysis of recombinant herpes simplex virus type 1 DNase. Kehm, E., Göksu, M.A., Knopf, C.W. Virus Genes (1998) [Pubmed]
  12. Suppression of amber nonsense mutations of herpes simplex virus type 1 in a tissue culture system. Patel, A.H., Subak-Sharpe, J.H., Stow, N.D., Marsden, H.S., Maclean, J.B., Dargan, D.J. J. Gen. Virol. (1996) [Pubmed]
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