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J Virol. 2010 Apr;84(8):3825-34. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02687-09. Epub 2010 Feb 3.

Bimolecular complementation defines functional regions of Herpes simplex virus gB that are involved with gH/gL as a necessary step leading to cell fusion.

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Department of Microbiology, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Herpes simplex virus (HSV) entry into cells requires four membrane glycoproteins: gD is the receptor binding protein, and gB and gH/gL constitute the core fusion machinery. Crystal structures of gD and its receptors have provided a basis for understanding the initial triggering steps, but how the core fusion proteins function remains unknown. The gB crystal structure shows that it is a class III fusion protein, yet unlike other class members, gB itself does not cause fusion. Bimolecular complementation (BiMC) studies have shown that gD-receptor binding triggers an interaction between gB and gH/gL and concurrently triggers fusion. Left unanswered was whether BiMC led to fusion or was a by-product of it. We used gB monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to block different aspects of these events. Non-virus-neutralizing MAbs to gB failed to block BiMC or fusion. In contrast, gB MAbs that neutralize virus blocked fusion. These MAbs map to three functional regions (FR) of gB. MAbs to FR1, which contains the fusion loops, and FR2 blocked both BiMC and fusion. In contrast, MAbs to FR3, a region involved in receptor binding, blocked fusion but not BiMC. Thus, FR3 MAbs separate the BiMC interaction from fusion, suggesting that BiMC occurs prior to fusion. When substituted for wild-type (wt) gB, fusion loop mutants blocked fusion and BiMC, suggesting that loop insertion precedes BiMC. Thus, we postulate that each of the gB FRs are involved in different aspects of the path leading to fusion. Upon triggering by gD, gB fusion loops are inserted into target lipid membranes. gB then interacts with gH/gL, and this interaction is eventually followed by fusion.

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