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J Virol. 2012 Jun;86(12):6386-93. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00104-12. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Residues within the C-terminal arm of the herpes simplex virus 1 glycoprotein B ectodomain contribute to its refolding during the fusion step of virus entry.

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The Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Herpesvirus entry into cells requires coordinated interactions among several viral glycoproteins. The final membrane fusion step of entry is executed by glycoprotein B (gB), a class III viral fusion protein that is conserved across all herpesviruses. Fusion proteins are metastable proteins that mediate fusion by inserting into a target membrane and refolding from a prefusion to postfusion conformation to bring the viral and cell membranes together. Although the structure of gB has been solved in a conformation that likely represents its postfusion form, its prefusion structure and the details of how it refolds to execute fusion are unknown. The postfusion gB structure contains a trimeric coiled-coil at its core and a long C-terminal arm within the ectodomain packs against this coil in an antiparallel manner. This coil-arm complex is reminiscent of the six-helix bundle that provides the energy for fusion in class I fusogens. To determine the role of the coil-arm complex, we individually mutated residues in the herpes simplex virus 1 gB coil-arm complex to alanine and assessed the contribution of each residue to cell-cell and virus-cell fusion. Several coil mutations resulted in a loss of cell surface expression, indicating that the coil residues are important for proper processing of gB. Three mutations in the arm region (I671A, H681A, and F683A) reduced fusion without affecting expression. Combining these three arm mutations drastically reduced the ability of gB to execute fusion; however, fusion function could be restored by adding known hyperfusogenic mutations to the arm mutant. We propose that the formation of the coil-arm complex drives the gB transition to a postfusion conformation and the coil-arm complex performs a function similar to that of the six-helix bundle in class I fusion. Furthermore, we suggest that these specific mutations in the arm may energetically favor the prefusion state of gB.

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