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J Virol. 2012 Sep;86(18):9995-10005. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01078-12. Epub 2012 Jul 3.

Interaction between the human cytomegalovirus tegument proteins UL94 and UL99 is essential for virus replication.

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Department of Microbiology and Institute of Molecular Virology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) virions are structurally complex, and the mechanisms by which they are assembled are poorly understood, especially with respect to the cytoplasmic phase of assembly, during which the majority of the tegument is acquired and final envelopment occurs. These processes occur at a unique cytoplasmic structure called the assembly complex, which is formed through a reorganization of the cellular secretory apparatus. The HCMV tegument protein UL99 (pp28) is essential for viral replication at the stage of secondary envelopment. We previously demonstrated that UL99 interacts with the essential tegument protein UL94 in infected cells as well as in the absence of other viral proteins. Here we show that UL94 and UL99 alter each other's localization and that UL99 stabilizes UL94 in a binding-dependent manner. We have mapped the interaction between UL94 and UL99 to identify the amino acids of each protein that are required for their interaction. Mutation of these amino acids in the context of the viral genome demonstrates that HCMV is completely defective for replication in the absence of the interaction between UL94 and UL99. Further, we demonstrate that in the absence of their interaction, both UL94 and UL99 exhibit aberrant localization and do not accumulate at the assembly complex during infection. Taken together, our data suggest that the interaction between UL94 and UL99 is essential for the proper localization of each protein to the assembly complex and thus for the production of infectious virus.

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