Parvoviruses are small, nonenveloped, single-stranded DNA viruses which replicate in the nucleus of the host cell. We have previously found that early during infection the parvovirus minute virus of mice (MVM) causes small, transient disruptions of the nuclear envelope (NE). We have now investigated the mechanism used by MVM to disrupt the NE. Here we show that the viral phospholipase A2, the only known enzymatic domain on the parvovirus capsid, is not involved in causing NE disruption. Instead, the virus utilizes host cell caspases, which are proteases involved in causing NE breakdown during apoptosis, to facilitate these nuclear membrane disruptions. Studies with pharmacological inhibitors indicate that caspase-3 in particular is involved. A caspase-3 inhibitor prevents nuclear lamin cleavage and NE disruption in MVM-infected mouse fibroblast cells and reduces nuclear entry of MVM capsids and viral gene expression. Caspase-3 is, however, not activated above basal levels in MVM-infected cells, and other aspects of apoptosis are not triggered during early MVM infection. Instead, basally active caspase-3 is relocalized to the nuclei of infected cells. We propose that NE disruption involving caspases plays a role in (i) parvovirus entry into the nucleus and (ii) alteration of the compartmentalization of host proteins in a way that is favorable for the virus.
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