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J Virol. 2002 Nov;76(21):10841-8.

The genes encoding the gCIII complex of human cytomegalovirus exist in highly diverse combinations in clinical isolates.

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  • 1Center for AIDS Research, Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


The UL74 (glycoprotein O [gO])-UL75 (gH)-UL115 (gL) complex of human cytomegalovirus (CMV), known as the gCIII complex, is likely to play an important role in the life cycle of the virus. The gH and gL proteins have been associated with biological activities, such as the induction of virus-neutralizing antibody, cell-virus fusion, and cell-to-cell spread of the virus. The sequences of the two gH gene variants, readily recognizable by restriction endonuclease polymorphism, are well conserved among clinical isolates, but nothing is known about the sequence variability of the gL and gO genes. Sequencing of the full-length gL and gO genes was performed with 22 to 39 clinical isolates, as well as with laboratory strains AD169, Towne, and Toledo, to determine phylogenetically based variants of the genes. The sequence information provided the basis for identifying gL and gO variants by restriction endonuclease polymorphism. The predicted gL amino acid sequences varied less than 2% among the isolates, but the variability of gO among the isolates approached 45%. The variants of the genes coding for gCIII in laboratory strains Towne, AD169, and Toledo were different from those in most clinical isolates. When clinical isolates from different patient populations with various degrees of symptomatic CMV disease were surveyed, the gO1 variant occurred almost exclusively with the gH1 variant. The gL2 variant occurred with a significantly lower frequency in the gH1 variant group. There were no configurations of the gCIII complex that were specifically associated with symptomatic CMV disease or human immunodeficiency virus serologic status. The potential for the gCIII complex to exist in diverse genetic combinations in clinical isolates points to a new aspect that must be considered in studies of the significance of CMV strain variability.

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