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J Virol. 2011 Dec;85(23):12698-707. doi: 10.1128/JVI.05791-11. Epub 2011 Sep 28.

A domain in the herpes simplex virus 1 triplex protein VP23 is essential for closure of capsid shells into icosahedral structures.

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Viral Oncology Program, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, 1650 Orleans Street, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA.


VP23 is a key component of the triplex structure. The triplex, which is unique to herpesviruses, is a complex of three proteins, two molecules of VP23 which interact with a single molecule of VP19C. This structure is important for shell accretion and stability of the protein coat. Previous studies utilized a random transposition mutagenesis approach to identify functional domains of the triplex proteins. In this study, we expand on those findings to determine the key amino acids of VP23 that are required for triplex formation. Using alanine-scanning mutagenesis, we have made mutations in 79 of 318 residues of the VP23 polypeptide. These mutations were screened for function both in the yeast two-hybrid assay for interaction with VP19C and in a genetic complementation assay for the ability to support the replication of a VP23 null mutant virus. These assays identified a number of amino acids that, when altered, abolish VP23 function. Abrogation of virus assembly by a single-amino-acid change bodes well for future development of small-molecule inhibitors of this process. In addition, a number of mutations which localized to a C-terminal region of VP23 (amino acids 205 to 241) were still able to interact with VP19C but were lethal for virus replication when introduced into the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) KOS genome. The phenotype of many of these mutant viruses was the accumulation of large open capsid shells. This is the first demonstration of capsid shell accumulation in the presence of a lethal VP23 mutation. These data thus identify a new domain of VP23 that is required for or regulates capsid shell closure during virus assembly.

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