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J Virol. 2003 Apr;77(7):4191-204.

A functional YNKI motif in the short cytoplasmic tail of varicella-zoster virus glycoprotein gH mediates clathrin-dependent and antibody-independent endocytosis.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA.


The trafficking of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) gH was investigated under both infection and transfection conditions. In initial endocytosis assays performed in infected cells, the three glycoproteins gE, gI, and gB served as positive controls for internalization from the plasma membrane. Subsequently, we discovered that gH in VZV-infected cells was also internalized and followed a similar trafficking pattern. This observation was unexpected because all herpesvirus gH homologues have short endodomains not known to contain trafficking motifs. Further investigation demonstrated that VZV gH, when expressed alone with its chaperone gL, was capable of endocytosis in a clathrin-dependent manner, independent of gE, gI, or gB. Upon inspection of the short gH cytoplasmic tail, we discovered a putative tyrosine-based endocytosis motif (YNKI). When the tyrosine was replaced with an alanine, endocytosis of gH was blocked. Utilizing an endocytosis assay dependent on biotin labeling, we further documented that endocytosis of VZV gH was antibody independent. In control experiments, we showed that gE, gI, and gB also internalized in an antibody-independent manner. Alignment analysis of the VZV gH cytoplasmic tail to other herpesvirus gH homologues revealed two important findings: (i) herpes simplex virus type 1 and 2 homologues lacked an endocytosis motif, while all other alphaherpesvirus gH homologues contained a potential motif, and (ii) the VZV gH and simian varicella virus gH cytoplasmic tails were likely longer in length (18 amino acids) than predicted in the original sequence analyses (12 and 16 amino acids, respectively). The longer tails provided the proper context for a functional endocytosis motif.

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