The landscape of transcription initiation across latent and lytic KSHV genomes
Precise promoter annotation is required for understanding the mechanistic basis of transcription initiation. In the context of complex genomes, such as herpesviruses where there is extensive genic overlap, identification of transcription start sites (TSSs) is particularly problematic and cannot be comprehensively accessed by standard RNA sequencing approaches. Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is an oncogenic gammaherpesvirus and the etiological agent of Kaposi's sarcoma and the B cell lymphoma primary effusion lymphoma (PEL). Here, we leverage RNA annotation and mapping of promoters for analysis of gene expression (RAMPAGE) and define KSHV TSSs transcriptome-wide and at nucleotide resolution in two widely used models of KSHV infection, namely iSLK.219 cells and the PEL cell line TREx-BCBL1-RTA. By mapping TSSs over a 96 h time course of reactivation we confirm 48 of 50 previously identified TSSs. Moreover, we identify over 100 novel transcription start site clusters (TSCs) in each cell line. Our analyses identified cell-type specific differences in TSC positions as well as promoter strength, and defined motifs within viral core promoters. Collectively, by defining TSSs at high resolution we have greatly expanded the transcriptional landscape of the KSHV genome and identified transcriptional control mechanisms at play during KSHV lytic reactivation. Author summary Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is an oncogenic gammaherpesvirus and the etiological agent of Kaposi's sarcoma and the B cell lymphoma primary effusion lymphoma (PEL). Despite identification of the virus over 20 years ago there is still an incomplete understanding of how many RNAs are transcribed from the viral genome and the location these RNAs are derived from. To fill this gap in knowledge we determined the landscape of transcription initiation on the KSHV genome. Our analyses more than tripled the number of known TSCs and thus viral-expressed RNAs. Furthermore, we identified key sequence features associated with the regulation of viral transcription start sites. This study provides the first transcriptome-wide characterization of KSHV transcription initiation sites as well as a framework for future studies to define functions of novel viral transcripts and viral gene regulatory elements.